Thursday, 07 January 2021 15:57

Stretching Expectations

By Megin Potter | Sports

Cover Photo: Saratoga Springs Gymnastics Team Seniors Ava Dallas, Megan Wishart, & Sophia Damiano.
Photos provided.

The Saratoga Springs gymnastics team got off to a record-breaking start this weekend, led by senior Sophia Damiano’s historic vault performance at the World Class Gymnastics Academy in Latham.

Damiano scored a 9.65 out of 10 total possible points. It was an astonishing feat for the first Suburban Council meet of the season, which was also a charity event for Hatsgiving, which provides hats to pediatric cancer patients. 

This isn’t the first record the Blue Streaks gymnastics team has broken since being led by Coach Deborah Smarro. 

Last year, Damiano and teammate, Ava Dallas, burst past the previous records when they both earned a vault score of 9.475 – which was the third time Dallas had delivered a performance for the record books during her high school gymnastics career. 

Each of the seniors on the Saratoga Springs team has grown and progressed through the years, upping their game, on and off the mat, with unparalleled beauty and grace. 

“From my perspective, it’s exhilarating and I think they are just as excited to break a record every single time it happens,” said Coach Smarro.

Smarro was a gymnast in college and has been the Saratoga Springs coach for 15 years, during which time she’s helped countless athletes develop and perfect their skills. Last year, Saratoga received their 19th consecutive Section II championship title. (Because of the pandemic, all winter sports sectional and state competitions have been cancelled this year. Saratoga will be competing only in Suburban Council meets with Bethlehem, Guilderland, and Shaker High Schools, within the stringent safety protocols that have been put in place.)

This year’s seniors have grown in their leadership roles as well as in their athletic prowess, thriving through the knowledge they’ve gleaned by helping others. 

“It’s always team first and individual accolades second. While they achieve individual accomplishments, it’s the team accomplishments that they pride themselves in most. The girls are part of a team with a set of core values and it’s those core values that they adhere to,” said Smarro.

 This year, the team has chosen to focus on three goals – to achieve team totals, their individual progression, and to support one another to stay safe and healthy throughout their six-week season.

These gymnasts are able to achieve this high level of success because they are organized, dedicated and task-oriented. 

“It travels over into their regular, daily lives. They are all very good students and are volunteers out in the community,” said Smarro. 

All three seniors on this year’s team have 90 and above grade point averages academically. 

In addition to her record-breaking achievements, Ava Dallas has also shared her enthusiasm for the sport as a coach at the Wilton YMCA. Sophia Damiano was last year’s Section II all-around champion and holds the balance beam record of 9.425. Senior Megan Wishart has earned a spot on the state team twice, is a team captain, works an afterschool job at Home Goods and has an internship at the Town Court. 

Smarro, who has been struggling the last three years with the illness and then death of her father, has experienced first-hand how being a part of this team can build an invaluable sense of resilience within all those who are part of it. 

“It empowers them when things are not going so well. It gives them the strength of mind that they can do anything when they put their mind to it and they know they have coaches, siblings, teammates, and family members to support them,” she said. 

On Friday, Jan. 8, the Saratoga Springs team will be competing against Shaker. They will also be honoring their seniors with a presentation, gifts, words of wisdom, and treats prepared by the younger members of their team. Because no spectators are allowed, parents and others will be able to view the ceremony via live-stream. 

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