It has become a winter ritual in Southern Connecticut on par with buckets of snow being dumped on the ground when it comes to the Hand gymnastics’ squad winning the SCC Championship. Following a 14-1 regular season record and numerous weather-related postponements of the championship meet, the four-time defending SCC title holders finally got their chance to complete the drive for five on Feb. 18. With a team score of 136.55, the Tigers reached their destination and captured the SCC’s top honor again.
Finishing behind the Tigers in the six-team competition were Law (124.5), Foran (120.05), North Haven (105.7), Hamden (73.75), and Branford (58.05). The Tigers saw two event winners in junior captain Kendall Jerzyk on floor (9.15) and fellow junior Stefani Taschner on bars (9.1).
“It is great to come home from SCCs with another win and title,” said Jerzyk. “We had some awesome performances, and we competed to the best of our ability. We are very strong on every event and here we got to show everyone our depth as well. Everyone conquered some little piece of true elegance and great gymnastics. As a captain, I am so proud of this team.”
Taschner and Jerzyk were also named to the All-SCC Team, in addition to fellow Tigers in freshmen Erin Maxwell and Becca Anderson with junior Maria Iennaco, and senior captain Amanda Rubano. To the Tigers, the only inspiration they needed was looking at their own legacy and continuing it.
“If anyone knows about our team, they know that winning SCCs is a tradition, and we believe that old habits die hard,” remarked Rubano. “It’s something that we know going into the competition and something we have to live up to. The history was our pep talk on the way to this meet, as we pass around the trophy that has Hand’s name on it 16 times.”
For the vault, a trio of Tigers make their marks with Taschner (4th, 8.8), Jerzyk (5th, 8.4), and Maxwell (6th, 8.3) Taschner finished only 0.2 points shy of first, captured by Cynthia Lerman of Branford, who scored a 9.0.
As Jerzyk captured the conference’s floor crown, she was accompanied by teammates not too far behind in their own achievements. Taschner was right behind her in the second spot with a score of 9.1, which was then followed by Ienacco in fourth, sporting an 8.8.
While no one on the beam could catch Shelton’s Meg French, who set an SCC record with a 9.45, several Tigers were right on her heels for this event. Maxwell (8.85) and Rubano (8.8) finished third and fourth, respectively. Anderson finished in a three-way tie for fifth with an 8.7, while Iennaco and Jerzyk were in their own three-person sixth-place draw with 8.6.
Even though Taschner did not defend her SCC vault championship of a year ago, she compensated by taking the bars event. Finishing after her was Jerzyk (3rd, 8.6), who finished tied with Lerman. For the all-around, Most Outstanding Performer Yarden Tepper of Shelton won the crown with a 35.6, yet Taschner came very close to snatching the title away with a 35.4. Jerzyk also found her way in the all-around, earning a fourth-place spot with a 34.75.
Along with captains in Jerzyk and Rubano, Hand’s participants in another title run were juniors Iennaco, Kendall Goodman, Julie Keenan, Sarah Klass, Aimee Merkle-Scotlan, Taschner, and Ashlyn Thompson; sophomores Lauren LaChapelle, Abby McGuirk, and Korrine Portley, along with freshmen Tess Smith, Anderson, Portia Blanchard, Patty Chalmers, Nicole Farrales, Genevieve Geller, Alicia Lanzetti, Maxwell, and Meredith Ovian.
“The same pep talk with that trophy tends to turn into a pep rally on the bus ride home,” joked Rubano. “In this moment, being able to take home that trophy to engrave Hand’s name on it one more time is everything to us.”