Just a mere three years ago, the Saint John Vianney girls gymnastics program was just starting.
Last season, the team only competed with independent schools.
This season, it claimed its first-ever Shore Conference and NJSIAA Central Jersey, Section I championships and finished with a No. 2 final state ranking by NJ.com, behind top-ranked Freehold Township.
After compiling a 6-1 regular season, then-7th-ranked Saint John Vianney edged then-top-ranked Freehold Township by the narrowest of margins, 112.625-112.225, to capture its first-ever Shore Conference title on Oct. 28, and dethroning four-time consecutive champion Red Bank Catholic.
“We have six amazing gymnasts on our team this year and it was our biggest team yet,” said SJV head coach Tracie Vaz, who has been at the helm since the school started the program in 2015 after a 15-year stint at Manalapan and recently was named this year’s Gymnastics Coach of the Year by NJ.com.
“Kylie Fallon specialized in two events and Sydney Prestup specialized in three events. Four of the girls did all events including juniors Ariana Agrapides and Alex Panetta plus sophomores Grace Costello and Caroline Larkin. Alex, Grace and Ariana's scores counted almost every single time toward our team score. They were very consistent and that made it a lot easier for our team, although each gymnast worked hard and each brought something special to our team. I also had amazing coaches by my side. Kim Cardinoza and John Poloski both played a huge role in coaching the girls. We could not have done it without them.”
Agrapides earned the individual all-around title (38.425 points) for the Lancers, placing first in balance beam (9.525), and vault (9.825), a second-place showing on uneven bars (9.575), and a fourth-place placing in floor exercises (9.5).
Costello placed sixth in the all-around (37.575), had a first-place finish on the uneven bars (9.625), a fifth-place showing in floor exercises (9.45), and a sixth-place posting on the beam (9.125). Panetta placed eighth on vault (9.5), and had a 12th-place finish on uneven bars (9.225) to help lead the Lancers to the win.
Six days later, the Lancers posted another milestone victory as SJV captured its first NJSIAA/Parisi Speed School Central Jersey, Section 1 title as it recorded 113.325 points to upend yet-again top-ranked Freehold Township, which placed second (113.025), and then eighth-ranked Marlboro, which rounded out the top three (110.875).
Saint John Vianney ended its season with a second-place finish (111.125 points) and the second-best team in the state behind first-place and revenge-minded Freehold Township at the NJSIAA State Team Championships.
The best thing about this team heading into the 2018 season: no seniors lost. All the girls will be returning and Vaz hopes to add on some new talent with some incoming freshmen.