LATHAM — While Sophia Damiano had competed in many high-caliber gymnastics meets before, including a pair of Section II championships, the Saratoga Springs junior was unusually nervous before her third appearance at Wednesday’s area showcase.
“I came in slightly worried. I was anxious,” Damiano said. “I hit that first vault, and I thought, ‘This is going to be good.'”
Damiano’s performance at Shaker High School was way better than good.
She set a meet record on the vault, established another on the balance beam and placed first on the floor, too, in becoming Saratoga’s fourth different Section II all-around champion in as many years.
“I was really excited to know we were starting on the vault,” Damiano said. “That helped settle me down. That has been my most consistent event this year.”
Damiano scored a 9.450 on the vault to beat the meet record of 9.325 that Kara Garbarino of Shaker set in 2011, and a scored a 9.425 on the beam to top the 9.400 produced by Shannon Bagley of Shaker in 1992 and Kaitlin Dewey of Saratoga in 2006.
“I was most happy with the beam because I’ve been a little inconsistent with that this year,” Damiano said.
Damiano scored 37.350 points to secure the all-around title ahead of schoolmates Ava Dallas (36.950) and Carly Ruschack (34.600). Saratoga also had the top three all-arounders last year, when Damiano placed third behind Dallas and then-senior Laura Eberlein.
Damiano won the floor title with a 9.425, and placed second on the uneven bars (9.050) behind Dallas (9.225).
“Sophia was amazing,” Saratoga coach Deb Smarro said. “She was in her zone. She was very focused, and she was there for the team.”
Saratoga won the team title for the 19th year in a row, and for the 14th consecutive time under Smarro’s direction.
“I’ve got to give it to our coach,” Dallas, a junior, said of Smarro. “She pushes us hard in meets and in practice, but she does it in a good way.”
Smarro gave each of her athletes a quick confidence boost before their routine, and one Blue Streak after another delivered in a group effort that ended with a season-high 173.650 points.
“We’ve got a lot of young girls, but we figured out what works,” Dallas said.
“It’s a team sport and everyone has to put in their all,” Damiano said. “We worked off of each other. It was, ‘Hey, they did good. I’m going to do good.'”
Saratoga garnered its 13th straight Suburban Council team title before extending its Section II championship run that began in 2002.
“We were all encouraging each other and celebrating each others’ victories,” said Ruschack, a sophomore in her first season with the team. “It was really exciting. All the hard work paid off not just for me, but for the whole team.”
The Blue Streaks scored the most points in each event topped by a 45.150 on the floor to close things out. Dallas (9.400) and Ruschack (9.225) placed second and third, respectively, behind Damiano in that event.
“I am thrilled,” Smarro said. “The floor exercise was a great way to cap off the meet. The girls were poised and they stuck their landings. I couldn’t ask for a better way to end the meet.”
Bethlehem (167.500) placed second in the team standings. Saratoga won the team title not only for the 19th straight time, but for the 20th time in 21 years.
“Coming together as a family was a goal,” said Smarro, whose team includes several eighth-graders. “The girls were there to support each other. They went through a lot of injuries and some adversity, and they stayed together and had each others back.”
The top three all-around finishers and the next three best finishers in each event will represent Section II at the Feb. 29 state gymnastics meet at Cold Spring Harbor High School.
Team scores: Saratoga Springs 173.650, Bethlehem 167.500, Guilderland 160.450, Shaker 156.975.
All-Around: Sophia Damiano (Sara), 37.350; Ava Dallas (Sara), 36.950; Carly Ruschack (Sara), 34.600; Alison Gray (Beth), 34.500; Chloe Kosoc (Beth), 34.425; Addison Seebode (Guild), 34.150; Trinity Walters (Beth), 33.100; Gianna Aquino (Shak), 32.800; Carli Rem (Guild), 32.675; Allison Rem (Guild), 32.250.
Vaut: Damiano (Sara), 9.450 (meet record); Dallas (Sara), 9.200; Gray (Beth), 9.175; Kosoc (Beth), 8.925; Mia Farley (Beth), 8.525; Seebode (Guild), 8.450; Erika Sudigala (Sara), 8.450; Walters (Beth), 8.400; Megan Wishart (Sara), 8.375; A. Rem (Guild), 8.350.
Uneven Bars: Dallas (Sara), 9.225; Damiano (Sara), 9.050; Gray (Beth), 8.200; Ruschack (Sara), 8.000; Miranda Lynch (Sara), 7.850; Kosoc (Beth), 7.800; Seebode (Guild), 7.725; C. Rem (Guild), 7.550; Aquino (Shak), 7.500; Farley (Beth), 7.400.
Balance Beam: Damiano (Sara), 9.425; Ruschack (Sara), 9.200; Dallas (Sara), 9.125; Seebode (Guild), 8.900; A. Rem (Guild), 8.825; Kosoc (Beth), 8.750; Walters (Beth), 8.700; Emma Rivers (Beth), 8.650; Gray (Beth), 8.600; Aquino (Shak), 8.550.
Floor: Damiano (Sara), 9.425; Dallas (Sara), 9.400; Ruschack (Sara), 9.225; Seebode (Guild), 9.075; C. Rem (Guild), 9.000; Alyssa Perez (Shak), 9.000; Kosoc (Beth), 8.950; A. Rem (Guild), 8.800; Hanna Fraley (Shak), 8.750; Walters (Beth), 8.700; Alyssa Kearns (Shak), 8.700; Emma Oertel (Guild), 8.700.