Gymnastics: Newcomers hold key to success for Warriors

Coming off a disappointing season, the Wilton High gymnastics team will look to build some positive momentum when it kicks off the season tonight at 6 at Next Dimension Gymnastics in Trumbull.

The Warriors are hoping the addition of four freshmen will provide a boost, and offset the loss of four gymnasts from a year ago.

“I think we’ll be better. We lost four kids from last year and we have four new kids. At the end of the day, the four we got will equalize or surpass the four we lost,” said head coach Gary Chadwick, who said the ninth graders will need to make contributions immediately.

“We don't have enough depth without them,” he said. “They're pretty good.”

This year’s team features seven returners — three seniors and four juniors — along with the four newcomers.

Wilton returns four of the five gymnasts who qualified for the State Open last season in seniors Morgan Leddy, Riley Wadehra and Sam Farhi and junior Meredith Nash. Only two other teams had more gymnasts qualify for the Open last year.

The Warriors also have a healthy Nicki Babkowski this season. The junior, who was coming off a strong freshman season, was sidelined for most of last season (and limited to vault) due to a strained Achilles tendon.

Also back are juniors Rebecca Poirier and Alex Uriarte.

The four freshmen are Brooke Taffler, Sam Huffman, Alyssa Jarrett and Taylor White.

Last season, Wilton had a dual match record of 7-4, and placed fifth at the FCIAC championships and fourth at the Class M state championships. Its season average was 132.5.

Wadehra and Leddy are the co-captains of this year’s team — the second year Leddy has been a captain.

Leddy was the team’s top performer on beam last season, placing fourth at FCIACs to earn first-team all-FCIAC and qualifying for the State Open. She will also again compete on bars and floor.

Wadehra last season was second-team all-FCIAC on vault. On bars, she placed seventh in Class M and qualified for the State Open. She will again compete on vault and bars this season.

Fahri, who competed on bars, beam and floor last season, will be limited to only bars this season due to wrist problems. Last season she made the State Open on bars.

Nash qualified for the State Open in both vault and floor last season, and had the team’s best finish at the Class M meet by placing sixth on the floor. She was also first-team all-FCIAC on vault. She will compete on vault, beam and floor.

Poirier a year ago was second-team all-FCIAC on vault. She will again be in the vault rotation, and may also perform on floor.

Uriarte will be the only Warrior with the possibility of performing in the all-around. She will be in the rotation on the bars, beam and floor, and may compete on vault, too. Last season she was second-team all-FCIAC on vault and bars.

Babkowski’s return to full competition will be “big boost” to the team, said Chadwick. She was the team’s top floor performer two years ago (and first-team all-FCIAC), and will bolster Wilton’s score on vault and floor.

Chadwick said Taffler will help out right away on vault and beam, and will contribute on bars later in the season.

Huffman will be an immediate part of the rotation on bars, beam and floor, while Jarrett will step into the rotation on bars and beam. Jarrett may wind up as the team’s sixth performer on vault, and may compete on floor later in the season, too.

Beam is the biggest question mark, as half of last year’s rotation is gone. Leddy, Nash and Uriarte will be joined by the three newcomers, Huffman, Taffler and Jarrett.

Chadwick said floor, which was the team’s strength last season without Babkowski, will be even stronger this year with her return to full health, the return of Nash, Uriarte and Leddy, and the addition of Poirier and Huffman.

As for the FCIAC, Chadwick said Greenwich is loaded and seems poised to win its first conference title since 1982. The Cardinals scored 144 in their season opener.

Returning state champ Woodstock Academy looks unbeatable as far as state competition goes, opening the season with a team score of 149.

“We’re all going for second place,” he said of the FCIAC.

As for Wilton’s goals, he said, “We’re just looking to be better than last year.”