By: Megan Roche
For the girls who put on the maroon, black and gold leos, fall is their time to shine and this year has been no different. Meet the Mount Olive High School Gymnastics Team, a team that is filled with girls who devote their entire lives to their sport, who spend hours in the gym to perfect their skills, the girls who simply fell in love with flipping and twisting at a young age and never ever looked back.
2019 is the third year in which Mount Olive High School has had a gymnastics team and they show no course of slowing down now. The girls are competitive and fierce each time they take to the mats, showing no mercy to their opponents. As the team is in its infancy, these girls put in the work tirelessly to put Mount Olive High School gymnastics on the map. Their division is a tough one to be in, going up against teams like Holy Angels, West Milford, Roxbury, Randolph, and Montclair, but the girls always show up and never quit.
Gymnasts across the globe spend hours in the gym to perfect roundoffs, beam dismounts, uneven bars routines, dance sequences for the floor exercise, but for these girls, many also belong to individual gymnastics clubs throughout the area. While they compete for Mount Olive High School, they also compete for C.S. Gymnastics or Northern Elite Gymnastics in Flanders. Throw in the fact that they are also focused on college applications, studying, homework, and life activities, and these are some standout kids.
“These girls have heart. They love this sport and give everything of themselves. They push through the pain and the injuries. They pick each other up and help each other keep going. Their determination and drive is amazing.” Deb Anderson, a member of the parent’s club shared.
What does gymnastics teach these girls? The Mount Olive Marauder Gymnastics team is simply a family. Every girl cheers on the others and they all encourage each other, regardless of the scores at the end of the meet. Gymnastics can be so individually focused but with the girls competing as a team for Mount Olive High School, they all work together to get the best scores in.
“High school gymnastics provides an opportunity for all of these athletes to show their school and community what they can do. They are indeed hardcore competitors out to win! They want to represent MOHS well. Their third season as a team has been amazing, everyone has just brought their best. This has allowed some depth to a small team. If one falls, another steps up. It’s truly amazing. It’s a very tight bond.” Jennifer Lemongello, MOHS Gymnastics Parents Club President said.
As the team prepares to head to sectionals and the state competition, they are training harder than ever before. More practice hours after school, training harder and faster, to realize their goals of qualifying. The girls tote an impressive team high 9-2 record, their two loses coming against Roxbury and Holy Angels. For stats girl Amanda Delguercio, it’s all about doing her best to support her team.
“I have really enjoyed doing stats for the team because I can support them and watch their scores improve almost every meet. I always get so excited when I see a broken record or new high score. I love being able to support all of the team competing this season and watch their silly, outgoing, and fantastic routines. The girls put their all into these routines and they are a pleasure to watch.” Delguercio said.
Solo senior Brittany Wilder has had quite the year competing for the Marauders. She has broken all her previous personal records, debuted new skills throughout the season, and even won the all around during league championships. After graduation, she plans on competing at Quinnipiac University on their acrobatics and tumbling team.
“During practice I always strive to be better than I was the previous practice. I tell myself that I am my biggest enemy and that only I can control how I train. Gymnastics has taught me that nothing is impossible and that by working hard, you can achieve anything.” Wilder said.
Wilder is currently the school record holder on all events. Her records include a 9.6 on the vault, a 9.4 on the uneven bars, a 9.65 on the beam, a 9.55 on the floor, and a 38 in the all around competition. She even earned herself a berth to compete in the all around for an individual state title.
Wilder’s season was a whirlwind. During League A championships, she medaled on every event and won the all around competition. Due to her success, she qualified to compete at sectionals on all four apparatus and in the all around. The Mount Olive High School gymnastics team also competed one more time as a team at sectionals as well.
While some girls are sidelined due to injury, that doesn’t stop them from showing up for their team either. Take stats girl Sarah Marcus for example. Currently sidelined due to a concussion, Marcus is still contributing to the team but in a different light. She shares, “I have enjoyed feeling like I am still part of the team and learning to truly understand the ins and outs of high school gymnastics, being that the scoring is so different from club gymnastics.”
Speaking of scoring, high school gymnastics is quite different from club gymnastics. When one competes at the high school level, each girl has mandatory skills they must compete, but they add in points for bonus. When those scores are tallied together, their execution score and their difficulty score are combined for the final score on the apparatus. In club gymnastics, most routines start out of a 10.0 start value, from there, deductions are taken. At the end of the routine, the deductions are subtracted from the score and the final number is the score for the performance.
The team is definitely a young team with five freshman this year, but that doesn’t stop them from throwing some tough skills. Freshman Sophia Lemongello, Lemon as she’s known around the gym, has loved the sport since she started at age three. “Gymnastics has taught me that you have to work for what you want. It isn’t about how much talent you have, it is all about how much effort you put in. You won’t be successful if you do not put in effort.,” Lemongello shared. Just one of the many life lessons that gymnastics has taught the young girls who compete this high flying sport.
For many of these girls, they have known each other through most of their life. Carley Anderson, a junior at Mount Olive High School, has been training with Lemongello since they were kids. The two have been going to the same club gym for years. Anderson believes that what makes the team at Mount Olive High School is the family atmosphere. “We are a strong team and had a really great season this year. I think it’s because we are all so supportive and encouraging of each other. We are good friends on and off the mat and enjoy hanging out together outside of gymnastics.” Anderson said.
Anderson will compete two events during individual states, the uneven bars and the balance beam.
Freshman Sofia DiDomenico started gymnastics at the age of three and hasn’t looked back since. She currently competes for Northern Elite as a level 8 and can throw some pretty tough skills. Those skills though? Those skills take a lot of hard work for months to perfect.
“This season I have accomplished competing all of the skills I worked over the summer for the first time! Those skills include a tsuk on vault, Chinese sit up on bars, full 1/2 on floor, front aerial and back tuck on beam. Gymnastics has taught me that working through the hard days helps me stay determined. By staying determined, I remain focused on my future goals and future success. Once I reach success, it will push me even further than before to do bigger and better things,” DiDomenico said.
Morris County is an up and coming gymnastics county. There are currently three programs at the high school level, Mount Olive, Roxbury, and Randolph. The future of Mount Olive High School gymnastics is bright, according to Mount Olive High School Athletic Director Dave Falleni.
“What I am most proud of this year’s gymnastics team is their perseverance to get better meet by meet. We are a young program, only three years in existence and yet they strived to be the best all year. They set school records meet after meet with new high team scores. They have overcome the odds by not having a home base to host home meets, but have plugged along. They had to take long bus rides and competed to the best of their abilities. I am hoping that in the future the MOHS gymnastics team will bring home a conference title and a state sectional title. Both of those are well within their reach.” Falleni said.
And as for their coach, Rebecca Neidhardt? Coach Becky couldn’t be prouder of her girls for everything they have been through and every effort they have put forth this year. Neidhardt, a former competitive gymnast turned cheerleader, knows what it takes to make it in the sport of gymnastics.
“It has been a pleasure to watch these girls grow into amazing young ladies. High school gymnastics has allowed them to do the sport they love (and spend so much time practicing) bringing awareness to the outstanding programs that Mount Olive High School has established. High school gymnastics encourages gymnasts to increase difficulty while developing bonus through connections. At the end of every year, the girls set goals and work on skills throughout the off season. A message I want to share with my athletes is that although winning has been exciting…the leadership, strength, determination, and confidence that gymnastics has given them is priceless and will be treasured for the rest of their lives.”
The Mount Olive High School gymnastics team is made up of Sophia Lemongello, Sofia DiDomenico, Carley Anderson, Brittany Wilder, Sarah Marcus, Amanda Delguercio, Bianca Lopez, Abigail Savokinas, Katrina Heinz, and Hannah Scott.