LATHAM — Seniors on the Saratoga Springs girls’ gymnastics team are asked to fill the role of point producer, motivator and teacher.
Megan Wishart has done that so well in a season that’s been different in so many ways, and for a Blue Streaks team that includes so many new faces.
“I know how it was to be on the team as a newcomer,” said Wishart, who has been with the Blue Streaks since the seventh grade. “They need someone to talk to them and see them through it.”
Wishart is currently helping her team through its final weeks of practice. The competitive portion of the campaign ended Feb. 14 when Saratoga clinched the Suburban Council tournament championship after a perfect run in the regular season, and the Blue Streaks will stay together through March 13 in a collective effort to get even better.
“As a leader, she is the organizational tool,” Saratoga coach Deb Smarro said of the 17-year-old Wishart, who is joined on the roster by fellow seniors Ava Dallas and Sophia Damiano. “She makes sure the bars get set, the mats get moved and the next kid is ready to go.”
“I try to contribute where I can,” Wishart said. “I know I’m not going to get the most points.”
She did score her share this season, though, while going above and beyond to bring along a youthful cast of Blue Streaks.
“I am able to help people break down skills to make it less scary,” Wishart said. “I remember talking to Maddy [Austin] about a move on the beam that she was having trouble with, and got her to understand it a little better. When she stuck, I knew how she felt and I was so happy for her because it was bothering her.”
“She takes pride in that,” Smarro said of Wishart assisting her teammates. “It’s nice to see her coaching the younger ones the fundamentals. She’s developed and shined in so many ways over the years.”
“She definitely has a lot of experience,” said Dallas, who, along with Damiano, joined the team while in the ninth grade. “She brings that to the table.”
Austin is one of four eighth-graders on the team, which also includes two seventh-graders and a trio of freshmen. Carly Ruschak is the lone junior, and Erika Sudigala is the only sophomore on one of the youngest teams Smarro has put out there.
Even so, with Wishart doing her part, Saratoga was able to churn out its 14th consecutive unbeaten season against Section II competition.
“I really try to provide a lot of motivation for them. I know how tough it is this year, and in general,” Wishart said. “Coach wants us [seniors] to be vocal. We’re important because we need to keep the kids in the right mindset and keep them going.”
Dallas said Wishart has the perfect demeanor to be a team leader.
“I’ve never seen her be mean to a single person,” Dallas said. “She is so positive with everyone.”
Damiano found just how infectious Wishart is soon after joining the squad.
“When I first came to the team, she was my team sister,” Damiano said. “We picked names out of a hat, and she was the first one to tell me about team traditions and the way we do things. She helped me a lot and we became friends, and since then we’ve grown even closer together. If I hadn’t joined the team, I wouldn’t have met my best friend.”
Damiano saw her good pal make significant strides as a performer this season, which included a career-high all-around score of 32.675.
“You’ve got to keep it all together the whole time,” Wishart said of all-around competition which includes performances on the vault, bars, beam and floor, which is her personal favorite event. “When I was in seventh grade I never thought I’d get 30.”
“She has come so far as a gymnast in six years,” Smarro said. “She averaged 32 in the all-around this season. It was 27 when she started. I’ve seen her grow.”
Wishart had a 31.05 all-around score at the Suburban Council championship meet, and placed sixth on the vault (8.15) and 10th on the bars (6.9).
“I just wanted to up my overall average this season,” said Wishart, who in the future plans to compete at the collegiate club level and study criminology at either New Haven or Rhode Island. “I wanted to have consistent scores instead of going all over the place, and I did that.”
Wishert said she is happy that there was a season to attempt to do that, despite the meet requirements that included masks at all times except while performing, social distancing and staggered start times for participating teams.
“I am grateful for this,” Wishart said. “I needed to let everything go and have fun with it.”