Short-handed Hampton gymnastics team overcomes adversity

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Sunday, February 4, 2018 | 11:00 PM


With continued success comes adversity.

What the Hampton gymnastics team has gone through this year might have been buoyed by past expectations.

“Fighting and scratching is what we've been doing all season,” coach Kinsey Basko said.

Hampton's program launched five years ago, and it won two consecutive WPIAL championships in its first three years and a third last season. This winter, though, is different.

The first hit came before the season started, when WPIAL individual champion Katrina Jones needed ribs removed and was forced to sit out the season. After twins Maura and Mariah Oliver left the team for personal reasons, the squad is down to four gymnasts.

“Our goal was just to make it into the (WPIAL championships). I knew winning was a little far-fetched but not out of it. I knew after the first two meets we weren't scoring well enough. Our goal was to make it into the championship and increase our team score each week, which we've done.”

Sneaking in to the championship this season might be the program's greatest accomplishment yet, given the circumstances. Because of the small roster, Basko can't drop any low scores in any event, leaving no room for error. Four is just enough to compete in the WPIAL championship.

“The girls were devastated and upset, for sure,” he said. “But they found a new sense of motivation, started stepping up a little bit more and trying new skills to make up for what we lost. So they're pumped. They're excited that we're going and are pushing forward. That's all we can really do right now.”

The catalyst for that attitude has been Mary Kerr. Expected by Basko to be a leader before the season, the lone senior has been an integral factor in preserving team spirit.

Kerr also is the only remaining gymnast who won a WPIAL championship, which came in her sophomore year.

“She was actually spearheading this positive movement,” Basko said. “Just talking to me and her teammates, staying positive and telling them that we can still do it. She responded well. It was quite appropriate. I'm proud she responded and the way the kids received everything.”

Kerr also added a new skill on floor and bars, which should increase the team score.

Sophomore Jenna Zabroski has battled through injury to have another solid season, particularly on the beam, where she will look to compete for another placement this year in the advanced division.

“I think Jenna is definitely capable of being in the top three in her division. … She's a strong force and carries a lot of her high scores, so she's needed. They're all needed at this point.”

Freshmen Hannah Schepner and Rhiannon Wagner jumped in and have contributed right away under added pressure. Schepner has stood out on the bars and floor exercise, and Wagner has added a new skill on bars, and counted her vault score for the first time last week.

“We're already working on stuff for her for next year, which is great,” Basko said.

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.

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