Gymnastics: Incoming talent raises the bar for Warriors

When you graduate your top three gymnasts, all State Open qualifiers, you ususally don’t come into the next season expecting to be a better team.

But that appears to be the case for the Wilton High gymnastics team, which begins the season on Monday actually stronger than a year ago, said head coach Gary Chadwick.

“Barring a catastrophic injury, we should be better than we’ve been the last four or five years,” said Chadwick. “We have some depth and we should be pretty solid for the next two years.”

The team returns eight gymnasts from a year ago, and welcomes back junior Sam Huffman, who missed all of last season with an injury.

It’s the newcomers who have reshaped the team, and its expectations.

Jessica Olin, a junior making her high school debut, is a Level 9 gymnast who qualified for USGA nationals earlier this year. She didn’t compete on the high school level her first two years because she was training and competing with Arena Gymnastics in Stamford.

Olin will compete in all four events, and Chadwick said she is Wilton’s best all-around gymnast since 2012 graduate Chelsea Levander, a three-time FCIAC all-around champ.

Another strong newcomer is freshman Lilly Byrnes, who will be a key addition on vault, beam and especially floor.

Sophomore Katie Walsh, another new member, will be a top-six performer on floor, and may see time on vault later in the season.

The team, which has no seniors, is led by returning juniors, and co-captains, Brooke Taffler (vault, bars) and Taylor White (vault, floor).

The junior class is also anchored by Huffman (beam, bars, floor) and Alyssa Jarrett (bars, beam).

The Warriors return five sophomores in Lauren Cooper (bars, beam), Kate Ginsburg (bars, beam, floor), Kayla Heber (vault, floor), Megan McNamara (bars, floor) and Carter Siegel (vault, beam).

Rounding out the lineup are two more freshmen, Peyton Gildersleeve (bars, beam) and Dillon Loud (bars, beam).

Chadwick said vault looks to be the team’s best event, with Olin, Siegel, Byrnes, Taffler and White, followed by bars, with Olin, Taffler, Ginsburg, Huffman and McNamara.

Heber, White and Taffler were all second-team all-FCIAC on vault a year ago. Jarrett was second-team all-FCIAC on bars and also qualified for the State Open.

The return of Huffman will be a big boost to the beam rotation, which also includes Olin, Byrnes, Siegel and Ginsburg.

Chadwick said that on floor, the team has a solid top three in Olin, Byrnes and Ginsburg, and is looking for White to step into the fourth spot, followed by Huffman and Walsh.

The big losses from a year ago are Meredith Nash and Nikki Babkowski, the team’s top two performers on floor and vault, and Alex Uriarte, who led the Warriors on bars and beam at the Class M state meet.

The Warriors finished last season with an average of 132.11, placing fifth at FCIACs and fourth in Class M. Chadwick is confident they can surpass those markers this season.

While Greenwich is the clear favorite to win the FCIAC again, Wilton should be in the mix for the second-place spot at FCIACs, he said, and may have a shot at the Class M title, depending on how the divisions shake out.

“We’ll be in the hunt. We may get a break in the division we’re in,” he said.