Stafford Leader

Southern Welcomes Solid Freshman Crew Joining Experienced Gymnasts

Sep 08, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy Southern junior Gabby Conforti.

With any sports team, losing a bunch of seniors to graduation can hurt the following year. However, if your team has a lot of solid returning athletes and a fantastic crop of freshmen coming into the program, it not only can soften the blow from graduation but also benefit the program for years to come.

Such may be the case for the Southern Regional gymnastics team this fall. Head coach Judy Miller’s Rams lost six seniors, including all-around star Ashley Hemenway, who ended her high school career by placing sixth in the balance beam at the state sectional meet. But the influx of six solid freshmen may prove incredibly helpful as Southern looks to repeat its success of last season, during which the Rams finished 8-3.

“We’re replacing six graduating seniors with a very strong group of freshmen, many of whom will be seen in the starting lineup in multiple events,” Miller said. “We expect this young group to inspire and challenge the returning athletes to compete at their best level.”

And with that, Miller expects this season to be marked by a positive attitude and high work ethic, hoping it translates into strength, confidence and excellent results during competition, which the Rams will need in the always-tough Shore Conference Class A South division.

Fortunately, Hemenway was the only all-around competitor lost to graduation. This year’s senior Autumn Shackleton and junior Gabby Conforti return to lead the way for the Rams this fall. Senior Sarah Possidel, a positive force on the vault, beam and floor last season, should again be a difference-maker on the vault and beam.

And then there’s the freshman crew. While there are six of them, Miller is expecting three in particular – Ali English, Hailey Klimas and Maria Mezzo – to make an immediate impact as all-around competitors. Translation: they’re pretty darned good. Adding to the clout of the freshman class is Abigail Scheider, who should be a force in the floor exercise.

Rounding out the Rams’ roster are seniors Shelby Bair, Emily Dering, Noelle Englebert and Emily Navarro; junior Devin Scully; sophomores Fiona Doyle and Gianna Antinora; and freshmen Gwen Moran and Courtney Schreier.

The Rams will open up the season at home against Central Regional on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 4 p.m., followed by a contest, also in Southern’s 9/10 gym at 4 p.m., against Toms River South on Friday, Sept. 22.

— David Biggy

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