Darien gymnasts star at Class M championships

The Darien high school gymnasts rose above their seeding to tie for sixth place with Farmington at the State Class M championships, held Saturday at Jonathan Law High School in Milford.

Wilton repeated as state champs, with the Killingly-Putnam-Tourtellotte co-op in second and New Milford third. The gap between fourth place Conard (124.875) and Darien (124.00) was less than a point.

“Although we may not have had our best meet due to injuries and team members being away, we did have some of our best moments,” head coach Judy Zakim said. “Every gymnast contributed to the team score, which proves our depth is key to our success.

“Lucy Collins really came through for the team by competing all around for the first time this year and performed tremendously. Our freshman Sommer Schmidt also handled the pressure of the state competition in stride and had a good day. And Kerry McDermott and Lauren Grandon both returned from injuries to compete strongly on their events.”

The Wave began the competition on floor, where Collins stepped in when senior Sofia Fea-Ruiz tweaked her ankle during warm ups.

Sommer Schmidt and sophomore Grandon both hit key tumbling passes to set the scoring pace. The team danced along with Lana Schmidt through her energetic routine that scored 8.1. Senior Nikki Carlo wrapped up the rotation with power, scoring 8.55 for the final floor routine of her high school career.

On vault in rotation two, the Wave earned the fourth highest team score of the meet. The scores counting for the team were all better than 8.0, starting with junior McDermott and Sommer Schmidt landing their twisting vaults for 8.025 and 8.2. Grandon’s power shone through for an 8.3 and Lana Schmidt’s full twist scored 9.0, the third highest vault score of the meet.

With freshman Maggie Russell, who usually leads off on bars, out due to injury, the Wave competed with only five gymnasts on bars and overcame small mistakes to equal their season average.

Collins’ smooth lines started the scoring and Fea-Ruiz hit one of her best routines of the season. Senior Lily Fairleigh missed her release move but hit the rest of her routine to add points and Lana Schmidt earned the team’s high score on the event with 7.4.

“Until I reviewed the scores, I didn't realize the Wave earned the highest team score on beam,” Zakim said. “And that was our last event. It goes to show that the girls stayed focused right up until the end.”

The Wave outscored all teams on beam with a mark of 32.375.

McDermott and Fairleigh set the tone with graceful routines. Sommer Schmidt’s determination and skill connections added 7.45 to the team score, followed by Collins who nailed her back handspring and leap combinations for 7.85.

Lana Schmidt was solid as always, landing every combination and dance skill to earn 8.45 for the third highest score of the meet. Carlo upgraded her combination pass to a back walkover-back handspring connection to tie for the meet’s highest beam score with 8.675.

Zakim wrapped up the season with thoughts on the team’s all around leader, and the seniors last team meet: “Lana's vault and beam were incredible.  She has maintained her high levels of performance consistently all year. And our seniors Nikki, Lily and Sofia led our team with their some of their best routines of the season. What a nice way to complete their gymnastics career  This sport is demanding and takes years to achieve this high level. They have shown dedication, determination and perseverance and I am proud to have had them part of Blue Wave gymnastics history.

“Although the most of the team is finished competing, we are so excited for Nikki and Lana who qualified for State Opens next weekend at New Milford high school,” Zakim added. “Nikki has qualified for Opens every year of her high school career and will compete on beam and vault and Lana will be vaulting at her first Opens.”