Stonington gymnastics enjoying another solid season

Stonington — Leslie Gomes has been the Stonington High School gymnastics coach for 26 years. But this team is something else.

For instance, sophomore Hanna Laskey, one of the Bears' top all-around competitors, could not compete in Monday's dual meet victory against Norwich Free Academy, but came to the gym anyway to cheer on her teammates.

"We're a team," Gomes said. "We're a team. We genuinely like each other. It's how it's supposed to be."

Stonington, which raised its record to 6-2, beat NFA 133.35-120.65, getting wins from Ruth Greene on the uneven bars (8.8), Autumn Nelson on the balance beam (a tie at 8.6) and Katya Torruella on the floor exercise (8.8).

Torruella, another sophomore whom Gomes describes as having "spring-loaded legs," was second all-around with 33.2 points. Ledyard's Lexi LaPerle, a junior competing in her first season of gymnastics since middle school, won the all-around competition with 33.8. NFA's Ariahna Cohen was third at 32.45.

Torruella was a member of last year's Stonington team which finished second to Woodstock Academy at the ECC championship meet. This year, she was joined on the squad by Laskey, a student at the Marine Science Magnet High School, and the two have become nearly inseparable on the mat and off.

"I felt like I was missing something today," Torruella said of Laskey, who competed in an outside meet Sunday and won. "I felt like I needed her to be my best. ... We had really good seniors last year, but we gained a few really talented (new people). We all help each other out.

"We're on the same team. It bonds us closer, not even as a team but as a whole family. It's neck-and-neck sort of (with Laskey), but we don't even see it as competing against each other. She's one of my good friends on this team."

The Bears' goal is to break the program record for team score, which is 138.1, set in 2003. Their best so far this season was the 134.6 they compiled in a win last week against Old Lyme.

Gomes is still waiting for things all to come together on the same day.

"It doesn't have to be perfect (now)," Gomes said. "By ECCs (Feb. 13) and states (Feb. 23), that's when it has to be perfect."

Ledyard had three competitors, joining in the meet along with individuals from Wheeler and Fitch. LaPerle won the vault, scoring an 8.8, as well as tying for first with her balance beam routine.

LaPerle gave up gymnastics after a couple years when she was younger, she said, to pursue soccer. She is a striker for the Colonels and a first team ECC Division II all-star, who decided to resume her gymnastics career when Ledyard fielded its first team since 2005. The Colonels practice along with NFA at Thames Valley Gymnastics in North Franklin.

"I wasn't expecting to do well today. I haven't been too consistent lately," said LaPerle, who was a Level 8 gymnast, nearing Level 9, when she stopped competing. "It definitely was (difficult to pick it back up). I'm still trying to get back skills I had.

"I'm really glad (to be back)."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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