A team that is sure to make its presence felt at the FCIAC Girls Gymnastics Championships, set for Feb. 9 at 10 a.m. at Westhill, is Fairfield Ludlowe High School.
The Falcons are soaring with a 10-0 record after Thursday’s victory over Staples (136.20-124.05).
Ludlowe made its first statement of the 2018-19 regular season by topping nine opponents and scoring 133.70 points to capture the Pomperaug Invitational.
The Falcons’ most recent successes were triumphs over two-time defending FCIAC champ Greenwich High (137.20-135) and Trumbull (132.85-128.65).
“We think the FCIAC is the strongest girls gymnastics league in the state. The top three teams in Class L have been FCIAC schools. And this year should be the same,” Ludlowe coach Kim Longobucco said. “We’ve been looking forward to this season for a while. Health has been an issue for us along the way. But every gymnast we plug in has responded. We think we can have everybody together for the postseason.”
Ludlowe has a core of experience in seniors Madison Cerny, Claire DeMaso, Evelyn Hogarth, Olivia Hurst and Georgia Sharpe.
The Falcons’ future looks bright thanks to eight freshmen.
At the center of Ludlowe’s regular-season dominance is sophomore Ava Mancini.
As of the Jan. 29 State Open rankings, Mancini is ranked No. 4 in the state on vault (9.10 point average), No. 4 on bars (8.65), No. 3 on beam (8.9125), No. 11 on floor exercise (8.6750) and No. 5 in all-around (35.20).
“I’ve been able to work a lot harder this season. This is close to the level I want to be,” Mancini said. “Last year, as a freshman, I found out how hard the competition is.”
The 2017-18 campaign was a learning experience for Mancini, who is also a Level 8 club gymnast.
At the State Open, Mancini tied for ninth on vault, tied for 25th on beam and was No. 37 in all-around.
She missed half of the regular season due to mononucleosis.
“Fitness is the key to developing skills. My overall strength has improved. And now I’m mentally stronger,” Mancini said. “I’m also a diver during girls swim season. Diving is also a great mental challenge. And things I’ve done in diving I was able to translate to improving my beam dismount. I enjoy the camaraderie and fun we have on this high school team.”
Mancini looks forward to her second high school postseason.
“I want my ton of practice to pay off,” Mancini said. “I’m very motivated to help this team doing well at the FCIACs and the state championships.”
For Longobucco, she believes her 13th season directing the Ludlowe program will be a lucky one.
“These girls are all about the preparation. They work year-round. I love their work ethic,” Longobucco said. “It’s a special, special group of girls. Our eyes are big. We want to qualify as a team for the State Open for the first time. We want this postseason to be an exciting group of firsts for us.”
MEETS TO WATCH
Thursday: South-West Conference (SWC) Championship at New Milford HS, 5 p.m.: Newtown High School is vying for a title after posting runner-up finishes the past two years. Host New Milford looking for its third league crown in four years.
Thursday: Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) Championship at Jonathan Law HS, 7 p.m.: Can anyone stop Daniel Hand from earning its 11th straight SCC championship?
Saturday, Feb. 9: FCIAC Championship at Westhill HS, 10 a.m.: Will be a battle royal as a number of solid challengers try to dethrone two-time defending league champ Greenwich High.
Wednesday, Feb. 13: Eastern Connecticut Conference Championship at Deary’s, 6 p.m.: Woodstock Academy seeks its 10th consecutive ECC title.