SCC gymnastics champion Law enjoys influx of new talent

Catherine Burns and Emma Nelly earned All-State honors for the 2020 SCC champions.

Catherine Burns and Emma Nelly earned All-State honors for the 2020 SCC champions.

Law Athletics / Contributed photo

MILFORD - Jonathan Law girls’ gymnastic coach Pat Simon has been with the program for 43 years.

“I’ve never had a team with this much depth. I have 19 girls on the team and all but a couple of them can do all-around (all four events),” he said. “They all have prior experience. We can do a full varsity/jayvee, what we call A and B. I have a full six girls for varsity and a full 6 girls for B team.

“The top 6 scores are A the next 6 averages are B team,” said Simon, who is assisted by Cassandra Kinskey-Lebeda. “Some kids can be varsity on one event and B team on another event.”

Catherine Burns, Lexi Rios and MaKenna Sharpe captain Law, which has averaged a score of 133.0 through four meets this season. Competing in varsity meets are Burns, Rios, Sharpe, Jenna Hanson, Greta Valvo, Emma Nelly, Mackenzie Powers, Dani Matist, Natalie Morrell, Angie Robinson and Claire Moulton.

Simon admits getting this talent to the right spot can be difficult.

“The hard part is trying to get everything done in a meet. Who is warming up and where? They have been very good with it and we’ve been able to get it in, so the meets don’t go too long.

“The seniors help out so we (the coaches) can actually roam to where we are needed say for vault, the two of us are right there. Our B team can warm up in bars because they know exactly what they need to do and how to do it. We lucked out in that everyone on the team has the same bar setting nothing gets changed.”

Burns, a two-time All-Stater, recorded the 1,000 point of her career when Law posted a season best score of 134.95 on Feb. 25. Burns had a career best on bars 8.75, beam 9.9 and all-around 35.5.

Said Simon: “Emma Nelly made All-State last year as a sophomore. Natalie Morell is a freshman and our highest scorer on balance beam. Right now, in the top scores in each event I have three frosh who have made the top four and added to our team score every time. We have two more right behind, still figuring it out and learning what they can do for high school They are willing to learn. It is very refreshing.”

He added: “That is what makes coaching so much fun. ‘Mr. Simon, how can I do this? What can I add to this? We get out our book, the diagrams that we made up and go over them. I show them the diagrams and explain it to them.”

The team has adjusted to COVID-19 protocols.

“They are kids, they adapt. They understand what must be done. They know what the rules are. They are following the rules,” said Simon. “They can’t go anywhere in the school or just hang around. They need permission to use the rest rooms. No one is allowed in the locker rooms. The reason there is that if they go into the locker room, after they left a custodial has to go sanitize the entire locker room.”

Simon credits Law’s custodial staff for the extra work they put in to get his team practice/meet time.

“The gym is transferred at night into double classroom,” he said. “They put a net down in between to divide the gym in half. When school is out, custodians come in and they take all 60 desks and two teachers’ desks, along with a teaching board on wheels, and put them in the hallway. They do that every day. We try not to impede the custodians and get in the way or request too much because we know the stress they must be under.”

Law’s success includes taking the top spot in the SCC championships a year ago.

“We try to do with them what makes them happy,” said Simon of his coaching philosophy. “If they aren’t happy forget about it. Parents sometimes ask, ‘What gym should I go to?’ I tell them to take them where they will be happy. Some kids start at age 3, others much later. Let them be happy and enjoy themselves.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354