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East Lyme's Kaitlyn Abbey at home as she ties for all-around title at 37.1

East Lyme — Maybe because the meet was being held at ABC Shoreline Gymnastics, where Kaitlyn Abbey often trains five hours a night, Abbey felt most at home.

Her confidence level manifested itself in conversations with some of the younger gymnasts at ABC, waiting for their own training session after the high school meet that was taking place, in relaxed chats with the judges and in talks with her opponents. And it was evident in her showmanship Friday afternoon.

Abbey, an East Lyme High School senior who competes on a team of two with one other gymnast, junior Franny Duong, won the uneven bars with a score of 9.45 points and tied for first with her floor routine at 9.55, tying for first in the all-around competition with Juliana Gagliardi of Haddam-Killingworth an impressive 37.1. The Vikings do not have enough athletes to register a team score.

Abbey was second on the beam (9.1) and second in vault (9.0). The Haddam-Killingworth/Morgan/Westbrook cooperative won the team title with 138.95 points, topping Valley Regional (131.3) and Old Lyme (110.3).

"It's like her family," East Lyme coach Kim Detuzzi said of Abbey's easygoing nature Friday at ABC Gymnastics, where Abbey works as well as competes.

But the assurance for Abbey also comes from her settling back into the sport after a few years off prior to high school, uncertain what would transpire in her return, then going through last season which was limited due to COVID-19 with no postseason meets by which to measure herself.

"She's just matured so much," Detuzzi said. She's able to talk to adults and kids. She's good with everybody."

"I like being social. It keeps my spirits up and it makes me more happy," Abbey said. "Just to be conversing with people, it kind of calms my nerves. I guess at first I was kind of quiet; I didn't know what to expect going into high school."

Abbey, the younger sister of former ECC boys' cross country champion Chris Abbey of East Lyme, started her career at ABC Gymastics when she was a toddler, coached by Courtney Detuzzi, Kim's daughter.

It was when Courtney left for college that Abbey changed gyms, through the ages of 9-13, and the experience became a negative one for her. That's what caused her to break from the sport. When Abbey got to high school, however, there was Courtney Detuzzi back at ABC, asking her to consider a return to gymnastics.

"I guess her asking me if I wanted to come back for high school really made me ... the first day back I remember just falling in love with it again and it made me realize, 'God, why did I leave this?'" Abbey said. "It's a happier enviroment than where I was before. Courtney and Jackie (Mcleod, coaches at ABC) are extremely motivating. They're here with me throughout the whole night (during her practice time). They're so encouraging even on the bad days."

Abbey also finds inspiration from the younger gymnasts, some of whom are level 10 competitors in USA Gymnastics. They look up to Abbey as a high school student but she admires them as competitors.

"They're literally my motivation," Abbey said. "They're four or five years younger than me but they motivate me every single day. They definitely motivate me because they believe in me, too."

During her comeback, Abbey became proficient on the uneven bars, which was the easiest on her knees. She has also upped the difficulty of her floor routine, tumbling to music she used in her prior stint at ABC, and has seen the results in higher scoring in that event.

She was edged this year for the all-around distinction in a dual meet with Woodstock Academy, she said. Woodstock will be looking for its 11th straight Eastern Connecticut Conference title when the league championship meet is contested at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, at Thames Valley Gymnastics in Norwich, but Abbey has got to be considered a favorite at the ECC and state levels, too.

"I really want to clinch an ECC title (in one of the four disciplines or all-around)," Abbey said. "It's my big goal for this year."

"She will, as long as she keeps up her positivity and her confidence," Kim Detuzzi said, "and her confidence has increased."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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