Long Beach works around injuries


The injury bug has hit Long Beach’s gymnastics program pretty hard, but that hasn’t stopped the Lady Marines from establishing a school single-meet scoring record while aiming to finish above. 500.

“It’s really tough when you lose three All-County girls,” coach Bill Muirhead said, referring to sidelined sophomores Sophia Cerky, Delphine Esformes and Mairead Powers. “We’d love to see them all back next season,” he added. “It would change our whole outlook.”

Cerky (ankle) and Esformes (shoulder) earned All-County honors last winter, while Powers (knee) accomplished the feat the previous campaign. Muirhead can only imagine where Long Beach (7-6 overall) would be with a healthy lineup. “That’s sports,” he said. “It’s just one of those seasons where we wish what we had on paper we could have in meets. But we’ve still done some exciting things.”

The highlight so far came Dec. 20 when the Lady Marines scored a team-record 163.3 in a narrow loss to Port Washington. Sophomore Ali Cohen, who already has a pair of All-American seasons as well as an All-County campaign under her belt, scored at least a 9.0 in three of four events that evening. She registered a 9.3 floor exercise, 9.1 on bars and a 9.0 on beam.

“Ali’s a team-first gymnast,” Muirhead said. “She feels if she goes out a hits a routine, the other girls will follow. She’s a tremendous talent and she’s like having a second coach on the team.”

Cohen is averaging close to a 36 in the all-around, ranking third in county, and is tops in Nassau on floor. She has qualified to compete in all four events at the state qualifier/Nassau individual championship meet. Feb. 12 at Oceanside.

Sophomore Rivers Cunningham took a break from gymnastics last season but has returned in great form, Muirhead said, and putting up big numbers on vault and floor. She was All-American as an eighth-grader.

Sophomore, Patricia Clune, was All-County last season and seeking a repeat. She thrives on the balance beam and floor, Muirhead said, and also is a consistent vaulter. Another sophomore coming off an All-County season, Lauren Pittinsky, has battled through nagging injuries to contribute as one of the team’s top scorers on bars and floor.

The lone senior on the roster, Brianna Haskins, displays an outstanding work ethic, Muirhead said, and has scored well in every meet on beam and floor. “The younger girls look up to her and appreciate her efforts,” he said.

Two of Long Beach’s youngest gymnasts, eighth-graders Alyssa Haberlack and Shaylee Weiner, are thriving in their second year competing on the varsity stage. Haberlack’s all-around average in the 31 range, including an 8.475 average on floor, ranks her second on the squad behind Cohen. Weiner will compete on bars at the state qualifier and scored a high of 8.7 in the event to aid the team’s aforementioned record-setting performance Dec. 20.

“We’ve got a pretty young team and they’re all getting better and stronger,” Muirhead said.