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In Just Second Year, Summit Gymnastics Team Vaults Up Rankings

The Alternative Press Staff

Friday, November 29, 2013 • 6:18pm

SUMMIT, NJ - Despite being in only its second year of existence, the Summit High School (SHS) Varsity gymnastics team took major strides forward during the fall season, compiling a winning dual-meet record while taking on some of the state's best teams.

Comprised of mostly underclassmen, Summit finished with a winning dual-meet record of 5-4, facing off against perennial powerhouse teams including Westfield (ranked No. 1 in the state for most of the year), Cranford and Scotch Plains-Fanwood.  The Hilltoppers placed third at the Cougar Classic Invitational, and then finished fifth in both the Union County Championship and the NJSIAA North 2, State Sectional Championship. The team was ranked by The Star-Ledger among the Top 20 teams for five weeks this season, averaging over 105 points each meet. 

The team, under the guidance of coaches Tracy Claus and Frankie Degen, was led by two returning sophomore co-captains, Noa Efron and Emily Donohue, and a squad of nine freshmen, including top all-arounders Abby Claus and Alysia Lopez.  In support of the all-around gymnasts, Summit relied on its depth and counted on contributions from freshmen Ginny Collins, Alexis Greenblatt, Kiera Little, Chela LeRoy, sophomore Claire DePhillips, Kaitlin Stewart and junior co-captain Naomi Schachter to round out its varsity lineup. 

During the course of the season, new school records were set by Lopez in the all-around (36.125) and vault (9.225) and by Claus in bars (9.325), beam (9.375) and floor (9.25). Claus and Lopez also led the team in All-County awards by making first team honors for bars and beam (Claus) and all-around (Lopez). Second team All-County awards were earned by Claus (floor and all-around), Lopez (vault and bars), and Efron (floor). Emily Donohue was awarded an all-county honorable mention.

Heading into post-season competition, Summit Varsity qualified six athletes to the NJSIAA North II Sectional championship, including Claus, Lopez, Efron, and Donohue in the all-around, and Collins and Greenblatt as event specialists.  Abby Claus finished ninth overall, 11th on bars and fifth on beam with a 9.25.  Teammate Alysia Lopez took 10th place on vault at the Sectional meet.  Abby Claus’ fifth place finish on beam earned her Summit’s first entry at the NJSIAA State Championship Meet held on Nov. 16.   She finished her season among the best gymnasts in the state with a 32nd place finish on beam.

The Junior Varsity team also made its mark, finishing its dual meet season 1-1 and bringing home 14 medals from the North Jersey Novice Invitational held at Ridgewood High School Oct. 26.  Top finishers from that meet included Grace Bebout, Pilar Canavosio, Jasmine Burton, Mary Jo Araya, Lauren Allinson, Lucy Woodward, and Rachelle Franco, each of whom earned at least one medal competing against teams from 13 other North Jersey teams.

Although Summit Gymnastics is an official team approved by the Board of Education (BOE), it is unfunded by the BOE budget, meaning that it relies entirely on financial support from the players and the community.  The team is made possible by the generosity of The Connection for Women & Families, which provides its state-of-the-art gymnastics facility as not only a training gym, but also as a “home” gym where it can host meets throughout its season.  The Connection provides coaching support, equipment, choreography, and scholarship support to girls on the team unable to pay the training fees.  Uniforms were provided to the team by the Summit Boosters Association.  The girls also ran bake sales and other fundraisers to help defray some of their costs and to help “pay it forward” by supporting the Connection’s scholarship fund.

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