The St. John Vianney gymnastics team went undefeated for the third straight season while finishing third in the state meet and producing an individual state champion in Kylie Sitty. Courtesy photo
The St. John Vianney gymnastics team went undefeated for the third straight season while finishing third in the state meet and producing an individual state champion in Kylie Sitty. Courtesy photo

The St. John Vianney gymnastics team has individual state championships pretty well figured out and is still striving for that elusive team title.

The Lancers of Lincroft produced their fourth all-around champion in the past seven seasons when senior Kylie Sitty won the NJSIAA Individual Gymnastics Championship at Brick Memorial High School Nov. 12. Sitty joined Kristen Politz, Ari Agrapides and Grace Costello as Lancers who have won individual gold.

In the team competition, SJV finished third this year, and has had two near-miss attempts dating back to 2015.

“We want that first-place title,” coach Tracie Vaz said. “We’re going for it. We’re right there. We’ve been second a few times and by very little. One of these years. . .”

Vaz was not disappointed, however – far from it. The Lancers were seeded third entering the competition, and finished where expected.

And for SJV, the vibe among the girls is all about the team, which went 8-0 this year. It was the Lancers’ third straight undefeated campaign. They have won 28 straight dual matches since losing to Middletown South in 2019 and are 43-2 since the program was revived in 2017.

Despite gymnastics being an individual sport, the Lancers enjoy the “One for all” attitude. They join in a circle to pray prior to each meet, and then to get themselves fired up for the event.

“They don’t even talk about the individual part of it, it’s only about the team,” Vaz said. “They set team goals, they look at other (teams) scores … They all talk about how they love the fact that it is a team.”

That’s because being a team makes it more fun than the rigid structure of club gymnastics.

“They’re so used to the individual off-season away from high school,” Vaz continued. “And it’s just a different feeling. They love the energy they get from when they go, and everyone is cheering them on, and everybody steps up for everybody.”

One of the leaders in that department is Sitty, who works on cultivating her great talent while also looking out for her teammates.  

“She gets behind everyone,” Vaz said. “She didn’t just go in there and do her thing and just focus on herself. She was focused on everybody, trying to push everyone to be their best. She’s a great role model for the incoming freshmen.”

And of course, she possesses the skills and dedication needed to be a standout. Headed for Southern Connecticut State in New Haven, Vaz amassed an all-around score of 38.275 in the state finals. She was also co-champion on bars with East Brunswick’s Kathryn McSweeney. She finished second on floor (9.55) and third on vault (9.625).

Her effort came after finishing third in the NJSIAA Central Jersey meet and fourth in the Shore Conference Championship.

“She had a couple little shaky moments in the Shore Conference and sectionals, just little things,” Vaz said. “She knew what she had to do, and she was very chill about it … she wanted to have some fun. She did something new on the bars which was a very big deal. She stuck with what she was focused on, and she just really hit on it really well in states. It was great for her, she really needed that.”

Sitty had no idea she had won the title until results were announced.

“We sat there and watched her reaction, and it was priceless,” Vaz said.

Sitty was joined at states by senior teammates Christina Troche, who qualified for all-around, and Shannon Ryan, who qualified for floor and vault. Ryan is not a true all-arounder but did all four events the previous two years because the Lancers needed her. This year she did everything but bars.

“She’s always one to step up,” Vaz said. “Whatever we need, she’ll do. She matured in such a way this year that everything just looked that much better. She looked so powerful, so strong. Very confident. She finished out in a great place and was great with the younger ones. She would literally walk around and check on everybody. She was a good leader.”

As was Troche, who showed tremendous improvement from her freshman year.

“She’s a little more on the quiet side but is always there to support everybody,” Vaz said. “Reaching states was the icing on the cake. She really just looked cleaned up and had the confidence. When they get to that senior year, they know their job and they know what to do and they do it with grace. She had her best year by far.”

Also contributing was sophomore Lillian Murphy, who recovered from an injured back that caused her to miss all of her freshman year. After working hard to come back, “when we needed her the most, basically toward the end of the season when one of our top girls got hurt, Lillian stepped it up to take her spot in the bars and beam. It was amazing.”

Two freshmen worth watching in the future are Reese Albano and Christina Fallon. Albano was one of the team’s top bar and vault scorers before getting hurt prior to the postseason. Fallon missed the year due to injury but is a high-level gymnast for her club team and shows great promise.

And while the Lancers graduate their top three performers, there are plenty of freshmen and sophomores waiting to get their chance to keep the winning streak going – and who also chipped in this year.

“Every girl was such an important part of this team this year,” Vaz said. “They all really stepped up in some way.”