The Half Hollow Hills gymnastics team rolled into second place at the Suffolk County Championship meet last week, proving that the underdogs can bite into the top seed. Ward Melville took first, with less than a 1-point difference.
Hills placed fifth last year and was seeded third in this year’s meet. The gymnasts surprised their opponents with their strongest season so far, falling short to Ward Melville by .4 of a point.
“We’re very excited to be up there with Ward Melville. We’re kind of the underrated team and we put a good fight,” Coach Terri Kindelman said.
The team’s achievement is due much in part to its newest athletes, some of whom are middle school students.
Jordan Ceccarini and Courtney Fondacaro, both seventh graders, are new to the team, but competed all around in the meet. Mel Gershman, a freshman and Sam Fondacaro, a sophomore, also stood out as top gymnasts.
Ceccarini, Gurshman, Sam Fondacaro and Maddie each made All-County and teammate Jillian Udell made All-League.
Anchoring the team is senior Nikki Maddie, who has served as the team’s top motivator throughout the season, her coach said.
“The upperclassmen take the young ones under their wings. They really help each other out,” Kindelman said. “They’re like big sisters and the young girls love it.”
While the gymnastics team has proved its strength this season, it may be more difficult for the team to keep up its scores in the future now that Hills Gymnastics, a non-profit gymnastics program that serves as a stepping stone for the gymnasts before reaching the high school level, was this year.
“You can’t just pick up gymnastics overnight. The starter program definitely helped us out a great deal,” Kindelman said.
For now though, the team is celebrating its winning season.
“I’m sad to see it end already. I’m ready for next year,” the coach said.