Saratoga gymnastics team claims 17th straight Section 2 title

The Saratoga Springs gymnastics team captured its 17th consecutive Section II title on Valentine’s Day at Shaker High School. Feb. 14, 2018.
STAN HUDY – SHUDY@DIGITALFIRSTMEDIA.COMSaratoga Springs gymnast Savana Schalberg hits the top of the vault table Wednesday night at the Section II gymnastics championship hosted by Shaker High School. Feb. 14, 2018.

LATHAM, N.Y. >> Saratoga Springs coach Deb Smarro needed some support this season and the Blue Streaks were there to offer up their own support to their gymnastics coach.

Before the season started, several gymnasts decided not to compete at the high school level and her team became smaller and much younger, she had a work-related injury during a meet, came down with the flu early in the season and also suffered her own personal loss.

Not to worry, as Saratoga Springs continued to smile, tumble and fly through the air on its way to its 17th consecutive Section II title Wednesday night at Shaker High School and record the 12th consecutive title under Smarro.

“They came in and did what they needed to do,” coach Deb Smarro said. “They knew after every event when they needed to fight harder, when they had to let go a little bit more, when they needed to be more aggressive. I couldn’t have asked for anything more today.”

Two newcomers to the high school program, freshman Ava Dallas and Sophia Damiano delivered, going 1-2 in the all-around competition and earning a spot on the Section II state team as both won two events each.

“It’s kind of nice because we are really close in scores usually and I’m just kind of glad that she got some and I got some,” Sophia Damiano said. “It was nice.”

The two former club gymnasts and best friends were separated by a fraction of a point in the standings with Damiano leading heading into the vault, the final event of the night.

Dallas, the new Section II record holder in the vault delivered a first-place vault score of 9.150, edging out Damiano with her 8.700 to take the top all-around spot with her 35.675 followed by her best friend with a 35.525.

“It was really fun to be beside my team, it really calmed me down and I tend to go a little hard for things and try very hard. Coach was there to tell me ‘Just calm down, stay in your own bubble. Keep to yourself and don’t worry about other people and what’s happening,” Ava Dallas said. “It’s really hard for me. I’m a perfectionist so I tend to try really hard. It’s important to stay calm and keep your mental game strong.”

Dallas captured the vault and the all-around title Wednesday with Damiano winning the uneven bars with her 8.850 and floor exercise with a 9.425. Guilderland’s Rachel Drislane won the balance beam with her 9.0 and was third overall in the all-around with a 34.725 and will also represent Section II on the state team.

Saratoga’s Laura Eberlein advanced to the state meet in the vault with her second-place 8.9 and the uneven bars with an 8.150. Teammate Kate Della Ratta also made the state team with her own 8.4 on the vault, 7.70 on the uneven bars and 8.6 on the balance beam.

The top two all-around winners have embraced their first-season as Blue Streak gymnasts.

“It’s actually really fun to be a part of a big team,” Damiano said. “They are very supportive and I’m very grateful that Ava’s here because she’s my best friend and I really rely on her and Coach, obviously, to do my best and to keep calm during these competition because I get nervous for nothing usually.”

With their Section II all-around success the Saratoga state qualifiers will advance to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association meet Saturday, March 3 at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island. The former club gymnasts will face the next level of competition across the state against other sections that compete in an opposite season, promoting club gymnasts to represent their high schools during the off-season.

“I’m really excited because I can really have fun at that meet,” Dallas said. “I don’t really need to focus on the standings because I’m good for the section, but for the state it’s a bigger crowd.

“I’m obviously going to have fun and do what I always do.”

Section II team scores

1. Saratoga 171.075 2. Guilderland 164.450 3. Bethlehem 155.650 4. Shaker 153.650

Section II individual scores


1. Ava Dallas (SARA) 35.675 2. Sophai Damiano (SARA) 35.525 3. Rachel Drislane (GUILD) 34.725 4. Laura Eberlein (SARA) 33.70 5. Shea Thomson (GUILD) 33.250


1. Ava Dallas (SARA) 9.150 2. Laura Eberlein (SARA) 8.900 3. Sophia Damiano (SARA) 8.700 4. Rachel Drisland (GUILD) 8.425 5. Kate Della Ratta (SARA) 8.400

Uneven bars

1. Sophia Damiano (SARA) 8.850 2. Ava Dallas (SARA) 8.300 3. Laura Eberlein (SARA) 8.150 4. Rachel Drislane (GUILD) 8.00 5. Kate Della Ratta (SARA) 7.700

Balance beam

1. Rachel Drislane (GUILD) 9.000 2. Ava Dallas (SARA) 8.975 3. Madalyn Altieri (GUILD) 8.950 4. Shea Thompson (GUILD) 8.825 5. Allison Rem (GUILD) 8.800

Floor exercise

1. Sophia Damiano (SARA) 9.425 2. Rachel Drislane (GUILD) 9.300 3. Ava Dallas (SARA) 9.250 4. Shea Thomson (GUILD) 9.000 5. Allison Rem (GUILD) 8.775

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