LATHAM — Saratoga Springs gymnastics coach Deb Smarro affectionately calls freshmen Ava Dallas and Sophia Damiano her “newbies.”
The first-year high school competitors earned a new moniker Wednesday night as the area’s best all-around tandem.
Dallas won the meet-ending vault to secure the all-around title, and Damiano was first in two events and second all-around to her best friend at the Section II championships at Shaker High School.
Their performances helped new-look Saratoga extend its team title streak to 17 years. In all, Saratoga has 24 Section II titles going back to 1981.
“It’s nice,” said Damiano, who, like Dallas, is a former member of the Stepping Star club team in Ballston Spa. “We’re really close. I’m glad she got some and I got some.”
Who would get the most came down to the end. Damiano led after three events with 26.825 points, while Dallas had 26.525. Neither of the ninth-graders were aware of the score before the vaulting.
“Coach won’t let them know,” Smarro said with a smile.
Damiano scored an 8.700 on the vault and Dallas prevailed in the event with a 9.150 to push her meet total to a winning 35.675. With that, she gave Saratoga a 10th all-around champ in 11 years.
“Sometimes I get too excited,” the 15-year-old Dallas said. “I thought it was important to stay calm and keep the mental [aspect] going strong.”
Dallas had set the Section II vault record (9.40) late last month at the Purple Passion meet that Saratoga hosted.
“It’s Ava’s best event,” Smarro said. “We knew she could go big.”
Dallas placed second on the uneven bars and balance beam, and was third on the floor. Damiano won the uneven bars (8.850) and floor (9.42). Guilderland junior Rachel Drislane won the balance beam (9.000), was second on the floor and took third all-around (34.725) to secure a spot at the March 3 state meet at Cold Spring Harbor High School.
Aside from the top three all-arounders, the three best scorers in each event also advanced to the state meet.
Smarro matched former Saratoga coach Andrea Snyder-Pedersen with her 12th team title in what she described as a difficult year personally.
“It’s been a rough season,” Smarro said. “We lost nine at the beginning of the season who decided to journey into other areas, including a four-time sectional champion [Julia Van Horne]. I fractured my thumb at our first meet. I got the flu. I lost my dad. These girls were by my side. I knew walking into the gym every day all these girls had my back.”
Smarro had special words for assistant coach Tiffany Hogben, who captured all-around titles in 2010 and 2011 while competing for Saratoga.
“Tiffany was amazing,” Smaro said. “She was there every day for me and the girls.”
Those girls won Saratoga’s 11th straight Suburban Council title before adding another Section II flag. With the likes of Laura Eberlein, Kate Della Ratta, Megan Wishart, Kerri Jackowitz and Emiy Ward, Saratoga had the best team scores on the vault, uneven bars and floor while amassing 171.05 points. Guilderland had the top balance beam score and was second with a 164.450 team total.
“They came in and did what they needed to do,” Smarro said. “After each event they knew if they had to push it or take a step back.”
Team scores: Saratoga Springs 171.075, Guilderland 164.450, Bethlehem 155.650, Shaker 153.650.
All-Around: Ava Dallas (Sara), 35.675; Sophia Damiano (Sara), 35.525; Rachel Drislane (Guild), 34.725; Laura Eberlein (Sara), 33.700; Shea Thomson (Guild), 33.250; Madalyn Alteri (Guild), 33.100; Kate Della Ratta (Sara), 32.772; Allison Rem (Guild), 32.750; Alison Gray (Beth), 32.200; Megan Wishart (Sara), 31.975).
Vault: Dallas (Sara), 9.150; Eberlein (Sara), 8.90; Damiano (Sara), 8.700; Drislane (Guild), 8.425; Della Ratta (Sara), 8.400; Alison Gray (Beth), 8.300; Wishart (Sara), 8.300; Alteri (Guild), 8.275; Dahlia Erlywine (Beth), 8.275; Brianna Morris (Shak), 8.250.
Uneven Bars:– Damiano (Sara), 8.850; Dallas (Sara), 8.300; Eberlein (Sara), 8.150; Drislane (Guild), 8.000; Della Ratta (Sara), 7.700; Morris (Shak), 7.500; Gray (Beth), 7.450; Kerri Jackowitz (Sara), 7.450; Thomson (Guild), 7.300; Molly Russell (Sara), 7.300.
Balance beam: Drislane (Guild), 9.000; Dallas (Sara), 8.975; Alteri (Guild), 8.950; Thomson (Guild), 8.825; Rem (Guild), 8.800; Della Ratta (Sara), 8.600; Amanda Gordon (Shak), 8.550; Damiano (Sara), 8.550; Emily Ward (Sara), 8.450; Hanna Fraley (Shak), 8.300.
Floor: Damiano (Sara), 9.425; Drislane (Guild), 9.300; Dallas (Sara), 9.250; Thomson (Guild), 9.000; Rem (Guild), 8.775; Gray (Beth), 8.750; Alteri (Guild), 8.750; Wishart (Sara), 8.725; Morris (Shak), 8.700; Gianna Aquino (Shak), 8.700.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports