For the past two seasons, Ward Melville has been the dominant force in Suffolk County girls gymnastics. Entering the season, opponents knew that beating the Patriots would be a tough task. Two months and 11 meets later, the county remains stumped.
After an 11-0 regular season, Ward Melville clinched its second consecutive title at Thursday's's Suffolk team championships at Connetquot High School. The Patriots scored a season-high 171.225 points, edging Smithtown by 3.975. Ward Melville finished first in three of the four events, led by a 46 on the floor exercise.
The Patriots, like most other teams, had to adjust to a severe lack of practice time because of superstorm Sandy. The team had only a handful of hours to practice since their final regular-season meet on Oct. 25.
"I think we practiced once or twice since our last meet," senior Alison LaRocca said. "We have 27 girls [on the team]. For us to pull together on one meet, it turned out really well."
Ward Melville is led by Cydney Crasa, a freshman filled with enthusiasm. She opened her afternoon by somersaulting to her starting position on the vault. Thanks to an expertly landed first jump, Crasa earned a score of 9.55. That score helped Ward Melville post a 44.025, the highest vault score of the competition.
Crasa also posted a 9.5 on the floor exercise.
"I like to show off [the routine] and put on a big smile," Crasa said. "That usually shows through my tumbling and my jumping."
There were plenty of reasons to smile after the meet. This is hardly the end for Ward Melville. With a large crop of underclassmen on the rise, this could be the beginning of a dynasty.
As spectators and athletes left the gym, the Patriots erupted in a loud chant.
"Ward Melville," they screamed.
If the program keeps on producing as it has in the last three years, that chant figures to echo across Suffolk for years to come.