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Meet 1: Centaurs start with close loss to best friends

It’s never easy on an athlete or, for that matter, a coach.

The Woodstock Academy and Killingly gymnastics teams occupy the same gym just about every practice.

They also share the same coach.

“We’re all really close, good friends, and we all cheer each other on, but in the back of our heads, we’re like rivals,” Woodstock Academy sophomore Olivia Aleman said with a laugh. “It’s good competing with them.”

Normally, the two teams compete with a third or even fourth team involved.

But in the season opener for both on Friday, it was just the two of them at Deary’s Gymnastics in Danielson.

“When we compete against another team, we’re like together for the most part. So, even the judges can get confused. I will call out a name and the judge will say that’s not the name she has and I have to explain that I’m cheering on another kid in another event,” Tocchio said. “It’s fun to do. Even when they were warming up, I was telling them, ‘You’re not on this team, go warm up over there.’”

When they finally got everything sorted out, Killingly came out on top.

Just barely.

The Centaurs fell in their season opener to their gym mates, 129.65- 129.1.

“We knew it was going to be close. When we did a mock meet and (Woodstock Academy freshman) Julia Kerr was still healthy then, it was within a tenth and Woodstock Academy got the win. It, literally, matters who hits because they are so close,” Tocchio said.

Unfortunately for the Centaurs, Kerr was out for the opener with an ankle injury and Maitena Alvarez was not available due to the holiday break.

“We’re hoping that Julia gets good news and will be back soon because she was looking like a rock star,” Tocchio said.

Still, the short-handed Centaurs were in it until the end.

“We didn’t lose by much. I think, later in the season, we will be able to win a couple more meets,” Aleman said.

While Woodstock Academy didn’t pick up the team win, Aleman did get the individual victory.

She finished first in the All-Around with a 36.45 total. That included a first-place finish on bars (9.2); a second in both vault (9.3) and floor (8.95) and third (9.0) on the beam.

“I have been out of the gym for a little while so I’m definitely happy with being able to come back and pull that out,” Aleman said.

Aleman was out with continuing back issues but, more so, because of the flu which so many at the school have suffered from.

“She’s been out of the gym, was pretty sick, had to go on a family trip, but she’s in such good shape that she just came back and did a great job. With some training and her feeling really confident, she will keep peaking,” Tocchio said.

Aleman said she was a little disappointed with her effort on the floor.

“I’m usually a lot better but since I’ve been out, my endurance is kind of low so it was harder,” Aleman said.

All four scoring gymnasts scored above 30 with Emma Long at 30.65, Allie Boyd totaling a 30.45 and Livia Gerum finishing at 30.2.

“It was the first meet so you can’t beat yourself up or get upset at your losses. You need to learn from them so you don’t make the mistakes again. It was a really good start,” Tocchio said of the Centaurs’ effort.