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Positive start for Long Beach gymnasts

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If nothing changes to its schedule, Long Beach gymnasts will be in rare company this winter with nearly all of its meets being in-person with an opponent present.

The Marines, who captured a conference title in undefeated fashion in coach Jessica Baker’s first year at the helm, got a taste of both meet options right off the bat. They opened with a traditional in-person competition at Cold Spring Harbor, albeit without spectators, then held a virtual home meet where only parents were permitted to attend.

“The girls are just really excited to compete and not taking anything for granted,” Baker said. “It was different without fans at Cold Spring Harbor and different at home not having an opponent, but both were positive experiences. It was still a great vibe.”

All but a few of Long Beach’s remaining meets are supposed to be virtual, but everything is subject to change during these unprecedented times. The Marines are also set to host the Nassau individual championships on Feb. 13. The team county championships, limited to the top eight scoring squads, is set for Feb. 27 at Massapequa.

Long Beach senior Allison Cohen and freshman Kirsten Lilly will almost certainly be at the Feb. 13 individual meet. Cohen is a multiple state qualifier and in her sixth varsity season, Baker said.

“Allison is very powerful on all four events and our captain,” Baker explained. “She’s a consistent top scorer. She’s also 100 percent a team player and has helped other girls choreograph their floor routines.”

Cohen dazzled in her two floor exercises to open the season, scoring 8.85 and 8.7. She also produced an 8.8 on the balance beam Jan. 27 on the way to scoring 32.8 in the all-around.

Lilly has made a huge impression in her first season in the program, both with her talents and personality. She’s led the way in scoring on the uneven bars, including an 8.3, and has reached 8.7 on floor and 8.45 on vault. “She’s brought a lot of joy to the team,” Baker said.

Seniors Sophia Cerky, Patricia Clune and Lauren Pittinsky, as well as junior Alyssa Haberlack are also off to promising starts.

Cerky missed two straight seasons due to injury but was determined to compete this winter and has chipped in nicely on bars and beam. Clune, in her sixth varsity season like Cohen, features a beautiful floor routine, Baker said, and brings plenty of energy. Pittinsky and Haberlack have polished their routines, the coach noted, and are competing with a high level of confidence.

“We scored 150 in our first meet and then 153 in our next meet, so I’m definitely happy with what we’ve done so far,” Baker said.