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Southington primed to defend title

SOUTHINGTON — The Southington gymnastics team polished off its second consecutive undefeated regular season and now turns its full attention to defending its CIAC Class L crown.

That opportunity comes Saturday at the Class L state championship meet at Pomperaug High School in Southbury starting at 5 p.m.

The Blue Knights enter the action as the No. 1 seed and are the favorites to win their seventh state title.

“We like coming in as the top seed,” Southington coach Kaitlyn O’Donnell said Wednesday after seedings were announced. “We like the pressure. It motivates us to do better.”

Senior Kayla Nati, juniors Lexi Rothstein and Marilyn Sporbert, sophomore Victoria Castillo and freshman Taryn Meenan will be Southington’s five all-around competitors on Saturday.

“We really came together as a team,” O’Donnell said of the regular season. “The new girls fit right into place and did a great job for us this year.”

Sporbert has been competing despite battling a hip flexor for the bulk of the year. O’Donnell expects the junior to be ready to go on Saturday.

Nati, the lone senior on the team, is a two-year captain and the cornerstone of the operation.

“Our team chemistry is what makes this team so special,” Nati said. “Winning another state title would mean so much to me. No matter what, this has already been a memorable year. Going undefeated was a huge accomplishment for us.”

The Blue Knights had only four all-around gymnasts en route to a state championship last winter.

“To repeat, we just have to hit,” O’Donnell said. “We focus more on doing what we have to do and the good scores will come.”

Southington’s depth has been another reason why the Blue Knights went 14-0 during the season. As they have all year, Kayla Birmingham and Jessie Kane will add to Southington’s lineup on Saturday.

Eight teams are competing for the Class L crown. Southington qualified with a score of 139.460. The main competition will come from No. 2 Glastonbury (137.410), No. 3 Trumbull (134.570), 4. Fairfield Ludlowe (132.470), No. 5 Newtown (130.240), No. 6 Staples (127.010), No. 7 Norwich Free Academy (126.140) and No. 8 Greenwich (125.740).

The State Open is next Saturday, March 8 at New Milford High School. Southington already knows it will be there. The Blue Knights are the No. 3 seed at that event behind Class S front-runner Woodstock Academy (148.270) and Class M top seed Daniel Hand (140.140).

“Woodstock is a team that has a few Level 9 club gymnasts,” O’Donnell said. “They put up some high scores, but we will try to give them a run for their money.”

Platt sophomore Kamrin Dawkins, who trains with Southington as an independent, won’t be competing this weekend, but will be in action at the State Open.

“I think she has a very good shot at Opens,” O’Donnell said.

“She’s a Level 9 gymnast at C.A.T.S. That’s her goal: to place at Opens.”

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