SALEM, NH – It’s been said by this newspaper for several years now that the best-kept secret in terms of athletic programs at Tewksbury Memorial High School is the gymnastics program.
Last Thursday night, the Redmen finished third overall and first in the Division 2 standings in the 9-team Merrimack Valley Conference Championship Game held at A-2 Gymnastics.
Central Catholic won the competition with 139.950 points, followed by Andover (138.1) and then Tewksbury (136.4).
Two years ago – no encounter last year with COVID – Tewksbury finished in ninth place.
“To finish third out of nine strong teams, we’re all in shock,” said head coach Jessica Wilkey, easily one of the best coaches in the entire TMHS Athletic program. “The kids on this team are used to coming here and finishing in last place.
“It was just everyone’s best performance all season. They are so excited and they should be because they have worked hard and they deserve it. I’m so, so proud of every single one of them.
During the regular season, Tewksbury struggled with numerous injuries, illnesses and lost three competitions by one point or less. Going into this encounter they were collectively tired, but put that aside and put on a memorable and historic performance.
“It was their best meeting of the season, by far. Because of COVID, this meeting has been extended for a week and they are exhausted,” said Wilkey. “A lot of these kids are clubbing and now they have nine competitions in high school and that’s a lot, but today was by far their best overall performance as a team, in every event.
“On the balance beam, honestly, in each match, we had between six and ten falls and that’s a lot of points deduction from our scores. Today we only had two falls in total out of the six girls we had on beam. Everyone did their best for the team.
“Even on the bars, we didn’t have many falls. We made a few mistakes, but today the first girl hit, then the next girl fed on it and she hit, and it kept going. We were on such a roll and tonight this game was such a good team atmosphere and camaraderie. To have their best meeting at this stage of the season is what you want as a coach. Everything fell into place tonight.
Tewksbury was once again led by junior Amanda Ogden, who had the best career of any gymnast in the program’s history. She was again one of the best all-around performers in the entire league, taking third place with a score of 36.4. This included taking first place on bars with a truly magnificent score of 9.3, as well as finishing fifth on floor exercise (9.10), sixth on balance beam (8.650) and tied for eighth. rank on vault (9.1).
Senior captain Bella Schille also had an incredible night, including finishing third on beam with a score of 9.2.
“Bella rocked today. That was it for her today in terms of competing with the team. She was emotional before the game started. She went out there and rocked it. She didn’t don’t like doing the bars and she crushed it,” Wilkey said. “Then she nailed her routine on the beam and then swung her routine on the floor. What a great way for her senior year and her career to get finish (in his last MVC competition) with the team.
Schille added: “I succeeded and I was so happy. That was the goal tonight, to do the beam routine.
Schille also earned an 8.8 on floor exercise and a 7.9 on bars.
Kayla Saunders competed in three events and “was amazing. She got her best scores of the season. Those scores included an 8.8 on floor, an 8.6 on vault and an 8.3 on bars.
Abby McCarthy only competed on beam and she was strong with a 7.6 mark.
“She struggled but she pulled through today. I was so proud of her because it would have been so easy for her to give up, but she fought hard and she set the tone for us. She was the first girl and she stuck (her routine) and then the next girl left and she followed,” Wilkey said of the birthday girl.
Julianna Cappiello also competed in three events, finishing with an 8.4 on vault, an 8.2 on floor and then a 5.5 on bars.
“Julianna is so consistent. She’s a nice girl, a team gymnast and her routines are very clean. She competes to the limit of her ability and she is still a big contributor for us,” Wilkey said. “She struggled on the bars today, her lowest score of the season, her hand slipped when she did her kip, which is uncharacteristic, but she was very nervous. She came back and was very solid on the floor and on the jump. She had good scores throughout the season which really helped the team, including today.
Rounding out the artists included on vault, Alexis Devlin (8.0), Jocelyn Delorey and Alexis Rooney (7.1), on bars, Jaden Kasule (8.5) and Keira Gaffney (5.5), on beam, Devlin (7.7), Gaffney (6.95 ) and Maddie Carroll (6.8) and finally on floor, Carroll with an 8.0 and Julia Carlson with a 7.5.
All of these performances led the Redmen to their third-place finish, while the team received the MVC Team Sportsmanship Award.
“Oh my God, we can’t believe it. Every member of the team performed their routines, we all had amazing, amazing routines and I’m so proud of everyone,” Schille said.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Ogden and Schille have qualified for the individual state championship meet to be held at TMHS.