Davidson 1st in State Open; Centaurs finish 2nd
Woodstock Academy senior Jenna Davidson did something very unusual Saturday.
For the first time this season, the gymnast fell during her balance beam competition.
Instead of letting that one mistake determine the outcome, Davidson turned a negative into a positive.
“I knew I had to make up a lot of points on the floor,” Davidson said. “I just had fun. I showed off everything and it worked out.”
Davidson scored a 9.55 on the floor, her final routine of the day in the State Open gymnastics championship at New Milford High School, and walked away as the State Open champion with a 36.575 total.
The Centaurs, as a whole, were not as successful.
They had won seven of the last eight State Open titles but fell short, finishing second to Southington, 136.625 – 136.1.
“We didn’t have our best meet (Saturday),” Woodstock Academy coach Kasey Tocchio said. “We had some little things. We were coming off of our best meet last week and we knew we had to repeat that because there are some strong teams here.”
Davidson was pretty steadfast.
The senior scored a 9.15 in the vault and a 9.225 in the bars before heading to the beam.
She slipped early in the routine.
“I consider beam to be my event and I was pretty upset after that. I hadn’t come off all year. Going into floor, it was more about the team. I had to pull it together, do it for them and do it for myself,” Davidson said.
She finished with an 8.65 score on the beam.
But Davidson had a little something in her back pocket going into her final rotation of the day.
She had raised the difficulty of her floor routine in the week between the State Championship meet and the State Open.
“She nailed all of her landings. She finished her bonus which we really worked on in the gym for her to get that start value. She came out of a 10.0, whereas at States, she came out of a 9.8. She got herself back in the mindset, though, of we’re going to finish for this team,” Tocchio said.
Davidson said it took some mental toughness.
“I had to dig down deep. I was upset, but it didn’t matter anymore. I had another event. I had to put everything else aside and just do what I had to do,” Davidson said.
And the relief afterwards was palpable.
“I’m really happy. I wasn’t sure I was going to win this meet. I’m just relieved. I’m upset that we didn’t win the All-Around (team competition) but we did the best we could,” Davidson said. “It’s OK to finish second once in a while. We won States. We had a great meet. Coming to a new gym, it can set things a little off. We had some mistakes, one more mistake than we needed.”
Tocchio knew it was going to be an uphill climb for her team throughout.
There is no scoreboard in gymnastics and coaches rarely take the time to go over to the computer screen that has the cumulative scores displayed on it.
But they can feel when things are going right and when things could be better.
Tocchio was feeling the latter much of the day.
“After vault (the Centaurs first rotation), we didn’t have the vault scores that we put up at States. So starting there, it was let’s do the best that we can do,” Tocchio said.
The Centaurs finished with a 34.450 in the vault which is where Southington gained a lot of ground as it finished with a 35.2.
The Centaurs followed that up with a 33.350 on bars and a 32.725 on beam.
“Besides Jenna’s unfortunate fall, they all stayed on beam, which was awesome,” Tocchio said.
Emily Arters finished with an 8.150 total on beam, Lindsey Gillies put up an 8.125 and Hannah Bell scored a 7.8.
The Centaurs moved on to floor where they posted a 35.575 total, the best score for any team in any of the rotations.
“Floor showed the team that they are,” Tocchio said.
Both Gillies and Arters scored an 8.8 and Elise Boisvert added an 8.425.
Gillies finished 13th in the All-Around with a 34.050.
“She had a great meet. She hit four-for-four and I keep telling her that she is one of our main scorers. I think she’s starting to wrap her head around the fact that she is important to this team,” Tocchio said.
Arters finished 18th overall with a 33.65 total.
Tocchio was also happy with the performance considering the team’s makeup.
“The dynamic of the team completely changed this season. We didn’t have the depth that we had last year, but last year, we said the same thing because we didn’t have the depth that we had the year before. The girls keep stepping up,” Tocchio said.
It will be even tougher next year when the Centaurs lose Davidson, Arters and Boisvert.
“We’re not really gaining any freshmen so next year will be interesting. We have to keep fighting through it and next year, we will probably be saying that so-and-so stepped up,” Tocchio said.
Tocchio is hopeful that Taylor Markley, a freshman this year who was sidelined by a back injury, will be able to return.
It was an unexpected end to the season for the Centaurs.
Woodstock Academy qualified for the New England gymnastics championship which was scheduled to be held at Fairfield Warde High School.
That competition was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic which also canceled all of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference postseason winter state tournaments.
Centaurs bring home 10th straight state championship
There have been times when Woodstock Academy has traveled to the Class S state gymnastics championship and the outcome, barring a disaster, was preordained.
This was not one of those years.
The Centaurs knew they had to hit their routines to raise the string of consecutive state titles for the program to the double digits.
“The girls were definitely feeling the pressure especially after losing an in-season meet to Stonington this year. They didn’t want to be the ones to end the streak, no one does although it may come down to that at some point. The streak was riding on their shoulders but we kept telling them that it was just like the (Eastern Connecticut Conference championship), we had to beat Stonington,” Woodstock Academy coach Kasey Tocchio said.
On Saturday at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, Woodstock Academy accomplished that.
The Centaurs recorded their second best total of the season, 140.425, and downed St. Josephs, which finished with a 138.325 total, to win their 10th consecutive state title.
Stonington finished third with a 136.6 total.
It was the eighth straight Class S championship for Woodstock Academy..
Two Class M state titles preceded the run in Class S.
“It was probably more rewarding,” Tocchio said of the latest state title. “It wasn’t easy and the girls have worked so hard for it.”
Without their top gymnast, freshman Taylor Markley, and minus gifted athletes like Paige Stuyniski or Grace Logan, to carry the team, Woodstock Academy could hardly afford to make any mistakes.
It was coming off an Eastern Connecticut Conference championship in which it beat Stonington by less than a point and the Bears were itching for a little payback.
The Centaurs weren’t about to let that happen.
“There was a lot of pressure and we didn’t count any mistakes. We had a stellar meet,” Tocchio said.
ECC champ, Jenna Davidson, led the way again for the Centaurs.
The senior found her groove, according to Tocchio, and stayed confident and calm.
Especially on the balance beam.
Without question, the hardest apparatus for most gymnasts, Davidson sparkled on Saturday, finishing with a 9.5.
That was .025 better than Lindsay Capobianco of St. Joseph’s.
“She was so proud of herself on beam because she’s really critical of herself on it. She came off with a smile and I told her that she should be proud of herself. She said, ‘I am,’” Tocchio said.
Davidson was above 9.0 in all of her events.
She finished with a 9.375 score for her floor routine, added a 9.2 on the bars and a 9.1 in the vault.
She would have been the individual champion had the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference recognized individual champions in the state championship. Individual titles are reserved for the State Open competition.
The remainder of the Woodstock Academy gymnasts also scored above a 9.0 in one event each.
Lindsey Gillies did so in the vault (9.050); Emily Arters (9.350) and Elise Boisvert (9.025) both accomplished their best in the floor exercise.
“This whole group has been a team effort. We had two events where we only put five kids up, so they know they are really counting for this team,” Tocchio said.
Tocchio said there was never any real comfort during the meet as far as a feeling that the championship was theirs.
If anything, it was trepidation.
After the Centaurs finished beam, they watched St. Joe’s post some good team scores of their own on the apparatus.
“We were getting a little nervous, but I told them, there was nothing we could do about it. All we could do was go to the floor and do our best. That’s the weird thing about gymnastics, you never know,” Tocchio said.
A 36.35 performance as a team on the floor, better than the Cadets by almost a point, guaranteed the Centaurs the trophy they so desperately wanted.
The streaks are done.
There will be no pressure to keep a streak alive going into the State Open championship where the Centaurs have won seven of their last eight.
They will, however, once again go in as favorites.
Southington is the nearest competitor.
The Blue Knights won the Class L state title Saturday with a 139.32 total.
“I think that is just a huge confidence boost for the girls,” Tocchio said of the favorite status. “This week, I think we can just focus on beating ourselves. There are some really great teams but if we just do the same thing that we did, it will be all right.”
The Centaurs did record a 141-plus in a home meet against NFA earlier in the season.
But that was with Markley and without the freshman, the Centaurs may be close to their peak.
“The vault was a little tight (Saturday) so we could possibly score a little higher on vault. But for the most part, I think we did the best we could. I think 140, possibly 141, is the best we can do. I know we were hoping for the 140 on Saturday,” Tocchio said.
Woodstock Academy makes it 11 straight ECC titles
It’s not getting any easier.
But that may be a good thing for the Woodstock Academy gymnastics team.
“The pressure is there especially since the ECC teams are growing and doing so well. The pressure is a little more but it makes everyone work a little harder,” Woodstock Academy coach Kasey Tocchio said.
As a result, the Centaurs just escaped from Deary’s Gymnastics in Danielson Monday with their 11th consecutive Eastern Connecticut Conference title with a 139.4-138.5 win over upset-minded Stonington.
“Thank God,” Woodstock Academy senior Jenna Davidson said. “We were so nervous because it would be so bad (if they hadn’t kept the streak going). We’re happy.”
Davidson repeated as the Eastern Connecticut Conference individual champion with a 36.75 score in the All-Around competition.
“I think last year, I kind of got lucky. Our two seniors I think fell on something so I won. This year, I hope I was more deserving, maybe. I think I had a decent meet,” Davidson said.
Although the Centaurs didn’t know the exact score going into the final event, they were pretty sure what they were up against.
Going into the floor exercise, senior Emily Arters told her classmate, Davidson, “You know that it’s down to floor, right?”
Davidson responded that she didn’t.
“But floor was a good event to finish on. We usually have fun with it and it usually turns out well,” Davidson said.
Davidson didn’t know just how crucial the floor was for the Centaurs.
They trailed the Bears going into the final event by three-tenths of a point.
“That’s scary,” Davidson said with a laugh.
Stonington coach Leslie Gomes knew her team had to do something that was going to be difficult, score well in its final event, vault.
“I knew we did really well on beam and floor, but I didn’t know what Woodstock was doing. It was kind of hard to know and vault is not our strongest event. We’re struggling a little with it. Hanna and Lydia (Laskey) are doing great but it’s just not our strongest event,” Gomes said.
Lindsey Gillies scored an 8.55, Elise Boisvert and Arters both finished with an 8.75 and Davidson posted a 9.15 to give the Centaurs a 35.2 total for the floor.
It was enough to best Stonington which finished with a 33.95 in the vault.
The Centaurs came into the meet pumped.
Maybe a little too much.
“Kasey talked to us at the end of the meet and said we had a lot of adrenaline (going into the ECC championship). I think it shows in little mistakes here and there because we were so amped up. Everything just has to be normal, just like practice, normal,” Davidson said.
The Centaurs started on the vault which only served to ratchet up the excitement level since Gillies nailed it.
The sophomore finished with a 9.2 to finish first in the event.
“I put that upgrade in on Saturday. I didn’t think I was going to do it, but (Kasey) told me to do it,” Gillies said.
It impressed Davidson.
“That vault is new. She keeps getting better vaults and I don’t know how she does that vault because none of us can do it. She had a solid meet. Everything looked great. We’re all happy for her,” Davidson said.
Gillies went on to finish with a 34.95 total, good enough for fourth in the All-Around competition.
Davidson followed with a 9.15 performance on the bars, best in the competition, and also was best on the beam where she finished with a sparkling 9.45.
“I was mad that I bobbled a little bit, made some silly mistakes, but I was happy that the score turned out well for me,” Davidson said.
Still, the Bears made it close with a 36.3 total on the floor and a 35.2 on the beam.
Their 138.5 total was a school record.
“It’s awesome to see Stonington set a school record. It’s so nice that we have a great connection with everyone and we’re still cheering everyone on. We want everyone to do their best and see where the results lie from there,” Tocchio said.
The Centaurs have another streak to protect.
Woodstock Academy has won nine straight state championships, the last seven in Class S.
Tocchio said she thinks this team, even without freshman Taylor Markley who is out with a back injury, is capable of keeping that streak alive as well.
“I think we are,” Tocchio said. “I think we need to remain healthy. It’s just different. Every year is different. This is a small team so every single person has to do their job. They just have to stay in the zone. Every year gets tougher.”
The state championships will take place on Feb. 29 at Jonathan Law.
The class designations have not been announced.
Centaurs likely grab share of ECC regular season title
The Woodstock Academy gymnastics team, once again, likely owns a share of the Eastern Connecticut Conference regular season title.
The Centaurs downed the team that had beaten them earlier this season, Stonington, 137.8 - 133.1 and also handed the Killingly/Putnam/Tourtellotte cooperative (128.05) a loss on Monday at Deary's Gymnastics.
The wins raised Woodstock Academy's record to 11-1 overall and 7-1 in the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
The Centaurs still have two league meets to complete, one each against Fitch and the East Lyme cooperative, that will likely be a part of the ECC championship meet on Monday, Feb. 10 at Deary's Gymnastics in Danielson.
"I think we're really excited about this because we lost to Stonington in the past. We were really hoping we would come back and have a really good meet and that's what we did. Everybody nailed everything," Woodstock Academy's Jenna Davidson said.
That was especially true of the senior.
Davidson was best on the beam (9.45), bars (9.4) and vault (9.2).
She also tied for best with teammate Emily Arters in the floor exercise (9.3).
It gave Davidson a season-best 37.35 All-Around performance.
"She was awesome and she always seems to come through for us toward the end of the season. I really think she's going to ride the tide. She has become such a leader on the team and knows how to perform," Woodstock Academy coach Kasey Tocchio.
It was a good win for the Centaurs.
In addition to losing to the Bears at Stonington earlier this season, the Bears also scored better in a meet at Thames Valley Gymnastics on Saturday although the two did not score against one another.
"Looking at the numbers and looking at what we did those meets, we know we can do it. It was definitely a confidence-builder going into the ECC's. It helped everyone out," Tocchio said.
In this case, the home floor was a big advantage.
"Being home always helps. I think we knew we had to bring out 'A' game and it was also Senior Night which got us really pumped up," Davidson said.
In addition to Davidson, Arters and Elise Boisvert were honored for their four years with the program.
Arters finished fourth in the All-Around with a 34.1 total while Boisvert added a 32.75 effort.
"We sat down with the five girls that competed (on Monday) before the meet and said, 'This is it. This is our team.' It's so small when you look at it like that. You're only allowed to drop one score so they all know how important they are. We're not trying to add more pressure to that. We just told them that they have to be normal and we're good," Tocchio said.
The Centaurs are missing their top gymnast due to injury.
"I think not having (freshman) Taylor (Markley) for these meets is really hard and we have to make it up. I think we do that every meet. Hopefully, she comes back but I think we have it under control if she doesn't," Davidson said.
It sets up the Centaurs and Bears for the rubber match and that will come in the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship.
"I hope we continue to have this kind of energy in the ECC's," Davidson said. "Everything has to always be better but it's the little things; turns, jumps, pointed feet, straight legs."
The Centaurs have a streak to defend.
Woodstock Academy has won the last 10 ECC championship meets.
"I think this year, it will mean more to the team than it has in the past because they're going to have to fight for it," Tocchio said.
Centaurs down NFA twice; Stonington next
The Woodstock Academy gymnastics team took advantage of the two weeks off from competition to improve not so much on its routines, but on its chemistry.
“We learned a lot these past two weeks about being a team,” said Centaurs coach Kasey Tocchio.”It really wasn’t about the gymnastics. It was about coming together and creating some leadership on this team.”
The Centaurs have made strides in that direction and it showed in two meets this past week against Norwich Free Academy.
Woodstock Academy was hoping to finish with a 138 or better early in the week at home at Deary’s Gymnastics in Danielson.
The Centaurs easily accomplished that, putting up a 141.6 to eclipse the Wildcats (118.15) and Fitch (95.05 which brought only three gymnasts).
Woodstock Academy followed that up on Saturday with a 135.25 effort at Thames Valley Gymnastics to down the Wildcats (117.0) again.
The victories raised the Centaurs record to 9-1 overall and 5-1 in the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
There is, however, a hurdle to climb.
Woodstock Academy competed without its top gymnast, freshman Taylor Markley.
That may be the case for the remainder of the season.
It's why the Centaurs went into the week with a bit of a philosophical change in direction.
“We don’t know if we’re going to get her back, so, it’s let’s see what we can do without her and prove we can still do this,” Tocchio said. “They really wrapped their heads around that and in our last practice (before Monday's meet), you could tell that the seniors (Jenna Davidson, Elise Boisvert and Emily Arters) really got it.”
Markley has been battling a back injury since the summer.
“We’re trying to be smart. She has got three more years left. We’re just trying to see what the doctor says and go from there. We’re hoping she comes back, but I can’t say one way or the other,” Tocchio said.
Arters said losing Markley does make things more difficult.
“It’s tough because she is a fantastic athlete. She impacts this team so much and it will be hard without her but I know our team will work so hard to be the same Woodstock Academy gymnastics team that we’re known to be,” Arters said.
“It puts the pressure on them,” Tocchio said of the Markley absence, “but I think they took that in a really good way. It was a little hard at first, but they decided they had to step up instead of feeling defeated.”
Davidson came up with a season high on Monday as she finished with a 37.0 total in the All-Around. The senior captured first in bars (9.3), beam (9.3) and floor (9.25).
Arters also had a season-best 35.15 in the All-Around to finish second behind her teammate. She was tops in the vault with a 9.45.
“I’ve worked hard all year to try and get this vault,” Arters said. “I thought the whole team did fantastic on vault.”
Boisvert added an 8.85 and Lindsey Gillies chipped in with an 8.7.
On Saturday, the scores were down a bit in Norwich.
Davidson had a tough time on bars but showed well in her other routines, finishing best on the beam (9.1) and the floor exercise (9.35).
Arters was also strong on the floor where she finished second overall with a 9.2 and had a solid 34.4 all-around performance.
The senior thought the break helped.
“It was nice to have some time in the gym. In the past weeks, it was like back-to-back meets, so it was nice to have some time to adapt to not having Taylor,” Arters said.
The Centaurs host the only team that has beaten them this season, Stonington, on Monday at 6 p.m. at Deary’s Gymnastics.
The Bears were on hand Saturday at Thames Valley Gymnastics and posted a 137.0 total and should the Bears win, they would clinch the ECC regular season title outright.
A Centaurs win guarantees them, at least, a share of the ECC regular season crown.
The Eastern Connecticut Conference championship meet follows that on Monday, Feb. 10 also at Deary’s Gymnastics.
“I think those meets will be good,” Tocchio said. “We’ve had the break and these meets are not as back-to-back as the beginning of the season. The girls are really excited to face Stonington again and show them what this team is made of. Stonington is a great team this year and it’s awesome to have competition in the ECC this year. I think it makes everyone work harder.”
Woodstock Academy rebounds with 2 wins
In this case, the schedule works in the favor of the Woodstock Academy gymnastics team.
The Centaurs, after scoring victories over the Killingly/Putnam/Tourtellotte cooperative program and Ellington on Monday, have a couple of weeks off before their next meet on Jan. 27.
“It’s very good,” Woodstock Academy coach Kasey Tocchio said. “I’m really excited that we get to plan out the six practices in between and really get some needed teamwork and team assignments done that we need to get done.”
The Centaurs bounced back from their very unusual loss at Stonington the week before with a 137.25 total to down the Killingly cooperative (122) and Ellington (118.6) at Deary’s Gymnastics in Danielson.
The two wins raised the Centaurs overall record to 6-1.
They are currently 2-1 in the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
“It was nice to be home. There are still a lot of improvements that we can make as a team. I think the team is starting to believe in what we can do this season. We just have to put it all together,” Tocchio said.
Freshman Taylor Markley led the Centaurs with a 37.1 All-Around total.
She finished with a 9.65 in the vault, 9.3 on floor, 9.25 on the bars and an 8.9 on the beam.
“Aside from a fall on the beam, Taylor had a great meet everywhere else. She’s starting to shine and show everyone what she can do,” Tocchio said.
Jenna Davidson added a 35.05 total to finish second to Markley in the All-Around.
The senior only had one score above 9.0; a 9.1 in the vault.
Senior Emily Arters added a 32.95.
Her best was a 9.0 on the floor.
Sophomore Lindsey Gillies finished with a 31.85.
Her best was an 8.4 in the vault.
Tocchio said the score masks the fact that there were plenty of correctable errors committed by Woodstock Academy.
“Staying on the beam is always a good thing,” Tocchio said with a laugh when asked where improvements could come from. “We haven’t had a consistent beam lineup. Floor was way better so that was exciting to see but we have improvements that we could make in every event.”
The Centaurs will have time to work on those.
But when they do return on the 27th to host Norwich Free Academy and Fitch, there will only be three regular season meets left before the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship on Feb. 10.
“It’s crazy how fast it goes,” Tocchio said. “But the way the schedule is set up, with being able to reflect on the beginning of the season and now have time to practice and come together as a team, the end of the season should look bright.”
Centaurs suffer 1st loss since 2010
It was a decision that Woodstock Academy coach Kasey Tocchio felt she had to make.
The Centaurs went into their gymnastics meet at Stonington Wednesday with some of their key performers not participating in certain events.
"It was definitely more preventative and even looking back, I don't think I would have changed it. It's safety for the girls first and the length of the season has to be considered," Tocchio said.
Of course, the Centaurs didn't think it would affect them as much as it did.
Stonington rose up to the challenge and handed Woodstock Academy a 136.75-131.15 loss.
It was the first regular season loss for the Centaurs since Jan. 27, 2010 when Stonington handed them a 130.15-126.6 defeat.
The Centaurs went on to win their next 91 meets before falling to the Bears again on Wednesday.
"I don't know how I feel about it," Tocchio said of the streak coming to a close. "It's definitely a little bit of a shock and something that we weren't thinking was going to happen. It's something different."
But it also could become a positive according to the Woodstock Academy coach.
"I really think this will help because I know how much these girls want it and how much the loss hurt," Tocchio said. "It's definitely an eye opener. I think it will help our girls realize that they have to step it up and worry about the little things. I hope it puts some fire under them."
The Centaurs (4-1, 1-1) top gymnasts, Taylor Markley and Jenna Davidson, did not compete in the All-Around.
Markley was limited to the bars, where she scored a 9.5 out of 10, and beam (9.3) competitions.
Davidson competed in three of the events but did not have a great day, scoring an 8.0 in the vault, 8.4 on the beam and 8.1 on the bars.
Only Emily Arters (33.65) and Lindsey Gillies (29.7) participated in the All-Around competition.
It was the third meet in six days for the Centaurs.
"We talked about this meet and wanted to be smart with the girls who were coming back from injury or had little nagging things and talked about how (the meet) wasn't worth it this early in the season. We didn't put up our full vault lineup and took away certain kids in certain events. What we did (Wednesday) was pretty good with who we put out there," Tocchio said. "It wasn't that we were tired or not ready, it was about saving their bodies for the rest of the season."
Stonington (3-0, 3-0), which finished with a 132-plus total in a win over Fitch last weekend, is capable this season.
"(Stonington) had a great meet. I'm happy that they have a strong team," Tocchio said,
It was a lot more business as usual earlier in the week.
The Centaurs posted a 138.55 score to eclipse that of Old Lyme (114.65) and the East Lyme/Waterford/Norwich Tech cooperative (109.75) in the home opener for the Centaurs at Deary's Gymnastics in Danielson.
“Throughout the season, the goal is to just get better every meet,” said Davidson. “What we’re doing in practice is trying to get bigger skills, perfect everything that we can and look for better scores.”
The Centaurs started out well in the meet.
Four members reached the 9.0 mark or better in the vault with Markley leading the way with a 9.65.
“I went over (her vault) a few times in my head before I went and (assistant coach) Gene (Michael-Deary) helped at the end of the vault (with his positive analysis),” Markley said.
Davidson finished with a 9.35, Arters added a 9.3 and Elise Boisvert hit a 9.0 on the apparatus.
For most, it was to be their only 9.0 or better score for the competition.
Markley earned a 9.4 on the bars for the only other score in excess of that number.
“We focus less on scores for each routine and look more at how the routine went and what we can make better,” Davidson said.
Davidson was best in the beam with an 8.85.
Markley was tops with an 8.85 with her floor routine.
It gave her All-Around best at 36.1.
“I think I did OK,” Markley said. “I feel like the first two events were pretty good and then things went down a bit but I still contributed to the team. The nerves kind of got to me at the end. I was still nervous about beam (she finished with an 8.2) after it.”
The freshman was also best in the team’s first meet with Glastonbury and Ellington the week before with a 36.4.
“I love having Taylor on this team. She definitely pushes me. For her being so young, so talented, it’s great to have her on the team. Plus, she’s a great person,” Davidson said. “It’s a little like Grace (Logan) and Paige (Stuyniski) were. I’m not as good as they were, but the battle is similar.”
Centaurs take 2 in season opener
It's a busy start to the gymnastics season for the Woodstock Academy girls.
The Centaurs had their season opener on Friday night in Glastonbury and got off to a successful start with wins over their hosts and Ellington.
Now, Woodstock Academy hosts the East Lyme/Waterford/Norwich Tech co-op program and Old Lyme at 6 p.m. on Monday at Deary's Gymnastics in Danielson and travels to Stonington Wednesday.
“It’s a little different for us. We usually have a December meet to break up the beginning of the season,” Centaurs coach Kasey Tocchio said. “Monday will be fun because they will be ready and will remember what they took away from last meet and what they want to fix. Then, we just have to push through Wednesday and recuperate after that.”
The Centaurs did well in the non-league opening event.
“It helps us set goals, our expectations for the year and it’s an eye opener for everybody,” Tocchio said.
The Centaurs finished with a 139.95 total to defeat Glastonbury (129) and Ellington (114.25) pretty handily.
They also eclipsed their own hopes.
Tocchio held a practice meet prior to the Friday opener at Deary’s Gymnastics and the team didn’t fare quite as well as it did in Glastonbury.
Freshman Taylor Markley made her high school debut in memorable fashion.
Markley finished first in the All-Around with a 36.4 total.
“I knew she would have a good first high school meet. She has always been an awesome competitor and will be that kind of kid that will thrive and love high school gymnastics,” Tocchio said.
Markley finished with identical 9.3 marks to finish first in both the beam and floor competitions. She also took first on the bars with a 9.0 and was tied for first with senior teammate Jenna Davidson in the vault with a 9.0.
“She had a beautiful beam routine,” Tocchio said. “Everything else wasn’t her best. She has the ability to really be up there this year. She is absolutely another (former Woodstock Academy standouts) Grace (Logan) or Paige (Stuyniski). She is just coming back from an injury and has room to improve everywhere.”
The beam is the hardest of the routines in high school gymnastics and the Centaurs have two athletes, Markley and Davidson, who thrive on the apparatus.
Davidson may have lost those teammates who pushed her last year, Ali Crescimanno, Lydia Taft, Abigail Vaida and Maddie Grube, but now has Markley playing that role and the two will be mutually beneficial to one another, providing competition from within.
“I think Taylor is great for Jenna. She helps motivate her in the gym and is a great workout partner. The two of them definitely push each other,” Tocchio said.
Davidson also performed well.
The senior finished second in the All-Around with a 35.5.
In addition to tying for first in the vault, Davidson was also second on the floor (8.7); third in the beam (9.1) and tied for third with sophomore teammate Lindsey Gillies (8.7) on the bars.
“She had a good meet, but it’s early and there is room for improvement especially remembering how to compete and keep the nerves down. She did very well especially leading the team as one of the captains,” Tocchio said.
Senior Emily Arters was second in the vault (8.8) and bars (8.8) for the Centaurs.
2019-20 Season Preview: Pressure to succeed always there
The Woodstock Academy gymnastics team always has to go up against, not only its opponents, but its history.
Ten straight Eastern Connecticut Conference titles, nine consecutive state championships and just as a kicker, seven State Open championships in the last eight years.
“I hope we can live up to that. We don’t want to go out early,” said Centaur senior Jenna Davidson. “We have to get bigger skills, honestly, and the people who do compete All-Around have to make sure their routines are solid, no mistakes.”
The difficulty level may be raised a bit this season.
The Centaurs lost Ali Crescimanno, Lydia Taft, Abigail Vaida and Maddie Grube, from last year’s team that also finished third in New England.
“It’s not easy at all,” Woodstock Academy coach Kasey Tocchio said of losing the four seniors. “They were four great seniors who really led the team and were great scorers on top of that. It’s a big number to lose. We haven’t lost a big number like that in a while.”
But all is not lost.
The Centaurs do have Davidson, the defending ECC individual champ, back.
Davidson just got past Taft in last year’s league championship, 36.5 – 36.
“The target is on my back a little bit,” Davidson said with a laugh. “I’m going to try to carry the team if I can with the other captains. We’re going to try and get everyone on the same page and do our best.”
Those other captains, in addition to Davidson, are fellow seniors Emily Arters and Elise Boisvert.
“Jenna, hopefully, will be as good a scorer as she was last year and Emily Arters is peaking on vault and floor and has upgraded her bar routine. She has worked really hard and will be a big scorer for us,” Tocchio said.
Boisvert, who was injured last season, returns and brings a lot of leadership and some really good skills on the floor.
The Centaurs are also blessed with another strong freshman.
Taylor Markley will make her debut for the blue-and-gold this season.
“She is an amazing freshman, a level-10 gymnast this year. She is on the mend from an injury right now, so, hopefully, by midseason she will be back to peak form. She will be another Paige (Stuyniski) or Grace (Logan),” Tocchio said. “We’re very excited about her and we’re just hoping that she stays healthy.”
Estella Douglas returns as a junior as do sophomores Lindsey Gillies and Hannah Bell. The freshman class, in addition to Markley, includes Madison Martinez and Bella Webb.
“It gives us a little more,” Tocchio said of the depth. “You need four scorers.”
Davidson said it’s a group that will have to work for everything that it receives.
“We think the year will be a lot of fun. We don’t have the strongest team that we’ve ever had, but it’s OK because it’s our last year so we’re going to have fun and do our best,” Davidson said.
Davidson said her goal is to just score well for the team, get into the 9’s in her events and, hopefully, the high 9’s.
“It’s all about the team, the team’s all-around score,” Davidson said.
The expectations are high.
But the Centaurs are familiar with them.
“It gets a little nerve-wracking,” Tocchio admits. “The pressure has always been there, this year more than ever. The girls have to work really hard for it and we said that last year because we lost Grace and Paige from the year before and the team had to regroup and find their way. They had to realize everyone counted and they couldn’t depend on some big scores. I think the girls on this team have learned that lesson already and we, hopefully, can keep building.”
Tocchio said the key might be how well the team performs early and if it can build confidence going into the larger meets.
“The goal is to be consistent and find that consistency within the team that we have this year because it is so different. We need to take the first meet and build from there and learn what this team is capable of,” Tocchio said.
The Centaurs are scheduled to open on the road in Glastonbury on Jan. 3.
Deary-Fillmore inducted into CHSCA Hall of Fame
Former Woodstock Academy and Killingly High gymnastics coach Robin Deary-Fillmore was honored Thursday as one of the newest members of the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Deary-Fillmore was inducted at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Deary-Fillmore said when she was informed that she would be inducted this year. “My brother Allen thought it was pretty cool, too, because he has been inducted into a Hall of Fame (at Northeastern University).”
“It’s awesome and definitely well-deserved,” said current Woodstock Academy coach and Deary-Fillmore’s daughter, Kasey Tocchio. “We’re all really excited for her. She should be recognized for everything she has done.”
Deary-Fillmore will be recognized along with James N. Brophy (posthumously, Bulkeley and Newington swimming); Edmund Butler (Masuk track and field); Nicholas Chaconis (Portland girls basketball); Jackie Ann DiNardo (Danbury girls basketball); Bill Hunt (Bethel baseball); Sandi Piantek (Maloney girls volleyball); Maribeth Sarnacki (Cromwell cheerleading) and Robert Trifone (Brien McMahon and Darien football).
A Putnam native, Deary-Fillmore coached the Centaurs from the inception of the program as a team-of-one in the early 90’s.
Robin Cohen Moore was the first Academy athlete to participate in the sport for Deary-Fillmore.
“She came to me and said that she wanted to do high school (gymnastics) and that’s how I approached the Academy with that. She did for two or three years as a team-of-one and then I had a bunch of kids from The Academy who asked if they could compete as a team,” Deary-Fillmore said.
Deary-Fillmore started the Killingly program in 1987 and was still coaching the Red Hawks (then Redgals) at the time.
She asked if the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference would allow her to coach both schools.
The CIAC agreed and it only grew from there.
“I lucked out. I was in a very rare situation. At one point, I had six high schools all competing for me which is cool, but this is such a totally different sport. We could do it, the CIAC allowed it and I think it was the best thing they ever did,” Deary-Fillmore said.
The reason why she feels that way was it opened the door for more competition at the high school level and a sport, where athletes were generally tucked away in tiny gyms with little recognition, suddenly became much more mainstream. High school athletes could now compete for state titles both as a team and individuals, New England championships and even national titles.
In addition to coaching multiple teams, gymnastics coaches can also work with athletes year-round something that is not accorded to high school coaches such as football, soccer or baseball, on a general basis.
“I don’t understand why that is not allowed,” Deary-Fillmore said of the other sports coaches not being able to work with athletes throughout the year. “I don’t get it. Somebody having an advantage over someone else because someone trains harder than someone else. I thought that was the whole idea. I am in a different situation in that most of the higher level gymnasts train year-round anyhow. A lot of the 3-sport athletes don’t because they are involved in multiple sports.”
It took a while, but the Centaurs eventually began to rival and then overtook the Killingly program in the gym.
Killingly won its first state championship under Deary-Fillmore’s guidance in 1990 and then again in 2004,’05 and ’07.
The Centaurs began to come into their own shortly after the Killingly ’07 title.
It was a rise that Deary-Fillmore expected.
“I did because everything goes in cycles. I knew the talent that was coming there. I was lucky, I had that advantage of having an idea of who was coming up,” Deary-Fillmore said.
The Centaurs won their first Eastern Connecticut Conference championship in 2010.
They haven’t lost since.
The first state championship came in 2011.
The Centaurs have won a state title every year since.
Both Woodstock Academy and Killingly won a state championship in 2012. The Red Hawks claimed the Class S title, the Centaurs the Class M championship.
“That was the most amazing thing ever,” Deary-Fillmore said.
She is still the only coach to have won two state titles in the matter of hours. It remains the highlight of Deary-Fillmore’s high school coaching career.
The Centaurs went on to win four State Open titles in Deary-Fillmore’s tenure from 2012-15 and a New England championship in 2012.
Just as important, Deary-Fillmore helped Centaurs alums Shaila Segal (Central Michigan), Courtney Osborne (Rhode Island College) and Bree Hussong - who started a gymnastics club at Northeastern University – compete at the next level.
Deary-Fillmore retired as head coach following the 2014-15 season turning the reins of the programs over to her daughter and the Centaurs’ success has not slowed.
“She did an amazing job with what she built and it has continued to grow because of her,” Tocchio said.
Deary-Fillmore is still a volunteer assistant for both programs and the fun part is, she still gets to see many of her former athletes, some, like Hussong, even work for her at Deary’s Gymnastics.
“They all come back, that’s the best part,” Deary-Fillmore said. “They all come back to visit or they all come back with their kids. Their kids are competing for their Moms now. When I go back and see all the stuff (that her teams and athletes accomplished), it makes me really happy.”