Stonington gymnasts go to 8-2, while Old Lyme’s Looney takes all-around at tri-meet
East Lyme — Leslie Gomes was a freshman at Stonington High School under head gymnastics coach Jerry Desmond. Desmond later became her volunteer assistant coach and her calming influence when Gomes became the Bears’ head coach, a duo for 40 years until Desmond’s death from cancer in 2021.
It is days like Friday, injuries piling up, the sound system not cooperating, the regular-season plodding along toward a string of high-stakes postseason meets, that Gomes misses Desmond the most.
“I do have to channel my inner-Jerry when I’m coaching and just calm down and be centered,” Gomes said, taking a few deep breaths. “He was fun. He was a friend, a mentor, he was everything. He was one of a kind.”
Stonington, despite missing two of its top all-around scorers in Mary Lord and Kaelyn Bevington due to injuries, added a pair of wins to what is thus far a successful season, accumulating 125.9 points to top Old Lyme (111.85) and East Lyme/Waterford (109.95) at ABC Gymnastics.
Old Lyme freshman Emily Looney won the all-around with 36.75 points, finishing first on the vault (9.1), bars (9.5) and balance beam (9.15). Looney is a Level 9 gymnast in the USA Gymnastics program, currently vying for elite Level 10 status.
Stonington senior Lydia Laskey won the floor exercise with a score of 9.3 and was second all-around at 33.05, while Fitch’s Emma Robinson was third all-around (31.70) and Waterford’s Harley Pendleton fourth (31.30).
Stonington upped its record to 8-2 overall, 2-0 in the Eastern Connecticut Conference, headed into the most difficult stretch of its schedule. The Bears face 12-time ECC champion Woodstock Academy along with Killingly on Monday, then again on Saturday, followed by a matchup with unbeaten Norwich Free Academy.
Stonington’s top score this season was a 132.45 on Jan. 9, also against East Lyme and Old Lyme. In that meet, Laskey edged Old Lyme’s Looney for the all-around title with 35.2 points.
Laskey, last year’s ECC champion in the balance beam and a member of The Day’s All-Area team, is the leader of a young team which features a number of Gomes’ former students at the Ocean Community YMCA. The Bears have five sophomores and three freshmen.
“I’m figuring out who’s going to be in the ECCs and states, moving kids around,” Gomes said. “I’ve had two injuries this week. It’s been one thing after another. I just got three back (from injury) and now I lost two.
“My expectation is really high. It always is because I can see their potential. They don’t always see it. I had thought of what we’d do today without Kaelyn and Mary and we exceeded that. I’m pleased about that.”
Laskey, who competed at the New England meet last year but took a break over the summer, was just adding back her giant swings (or giants) on uneven bars and fell Friday, resulting in a 7.1, still good enough for third place.
“I was trying to do my giants today. I may have had a bad meet, but it’s more momentum for me to get better and stuff,” Laskey said. “We’ve had a bunch of injuries. We’re just coming back and getting into the swing of things.”
Laskey and Looney both grew up competing at ABC Gymnastics and both excel on the beam.
“Her routine is very good,” Laskey said. “She was my old teammate so I’ve seen her compete and stuff. I’ve known her for a long time.”
“I think doing all these meets in high school, it’s been really fun,” Looney said. “It’s been completely different from USA (Gymnastics). It’s a lot more relaxed.”
East Lyme, meanwhile, went from having a team of two last year, with The Day’s All-Area Gymnast of the Year in then-senior Kaitlyn Abbey along with junior Franny Duong, to having a four-person team. Duong is the Vikings’ proud senior captain.
“I think it’s great having my own big team this year because I get to have more than just me and Kait cheering ourselves on,” Duong said. “Now we qualify for a team score this year because we have four girls, so it’s really great.”
Old Lyme is 3-3 overall. East Lyme is 0-6.