St. John Vianney gymnasts (from left) Kylie Sitty, Shannon Ryan, Allyson Lambe and Christina Troche were the driving force behind the Lancers Shore Conference Championship victory at Brick Memorial Oct. 30.
St. John Vianney gymnasts (from left) Kylie Sitty, Shannon Ryan, Allyson Lambe and Christina Troche were the driving force behind the Lancers Shore Conference Championship victory at Brick Memorial Oct. 30.
The St. John Vianney, Holmdel, gymnastics program is only seven years old but it has quickly made itself at home in the Shore Conference Championship meet.

The Lancers won their third conference title in the past five years on Oct. 30 at Brick Memorial High School by amassing 110.25 points. That total allowed SJV to squeak past defending champion Freehold Township, which had 109.825 points.

It was the Holmdel school’s first SCC title since winning it back-to-back in 2017-18. There was no meet last year due to COVID-19.

“They’ve been working so hard,” said coach Tracie Vaz, who won an SCC title while competing with Freehold Township in 1990. “I’ve seen so many improvements in the girls from last year to this year in general.

“We looked strong, but I didn’t know where everyone else was at until we started competing. As I was looking at the results going out (during the meet), I thought ‘Wow we really have a good chance.’ I think that alone really helped motivate them and they were like ‘We can do this!’”

They did it thanks to the efforts of four all-around competitors – juniors Kylie Sitty, Shannon Ryan and Christina Troche, and senior Ally Lambe.

Sitty won three medals and finished third in all-around with a score of 37.4. She scored a 9.5 to take second in vault, and also took third on floor and fourth on bars. The top six finishers in each event earned medals.

“She did very well,” Vaz said. “She’s been one of the top girls out there this year.”

Troche also medaled, taking sixth on beam. Lambe just missed medaling with a seventh in the floor, but finished 11th all-around, while Ryan was right behind at 12th in all-around.

Although the Lancers had every starter coming back this year, Lambe was not the same type of contributor in 2020 as she is this year. She was recovering from an injury, but her re-emergence has made a big difference.

“We really didn’t have that fourth full all-around, which you need,” Vaz said. “You count your best three scores, and if you’re only three-for-three it’s really hard. We’ve always had three-for-three and had to count every score.

“This year we’re lucky to have that fourth girl to bring in another score in case someone messes up. That’s where we have a little benefit. We’re still building a team. We’re looking to eventually have a fifth or sixth girl to always have someone to fall back on in case it’s needed.”

SJV, which is 8-0 this season and has won 20 straight dual meets dating back to 2019, needed all four of its girls to contribute in a razor tight event.  

After kneeling for their usual pre-meet prayer, the Lancers geared up for a competitive fray. They were tied with Freehold after the vault and bars rotations, but stumbled slightly during the beam and fell behind by 5/10ths of a point. They needed – and achieved – a big effort on floor.  

“Five-tenths is not easy to pick up,” Vaz said. “But we figured every girl does really well on floor. We didn’t think the other team would not do so well. We went out there and the other team didn’t do bad but we just really poured it on. Kylie was the only gymnast in the meet to do a double back (flip). Our girls just hit their floor. They did great, they were excited and they knew what they had to do.

“The judge even said, ‘You guys definitely had the best floor we’ve seen the whole meet.’ So they pulled through, plus some. They didn’t even catch up to the five-tenths, they gained another five-tenths. They did more than we expected from the floor, which was exciting.”

Despite the fact St. John Vianney was the No. 1 seed entering the meet, Vaz knew the Shore Conference is too powerful to ever assume victory.

“I knew Township was right behind us and creeping up a little bit,” the coach said. “I’m not surprised we won, it was well deserved. But it could have gone either way. It was really just the two teams duking it out. I wasn’t going in there being completely optimistic. I knew we had to really hit to do really well."

Vaz noted that while the Lancers did not have their best meet, but still won, he indicated that it was good news for SJV, which has not yet peaked with the Central Jersey Group 1 sectional meet at Manalapan High School on tap Nov. 6.

“From the beginning we always want to take it slow,” Vaz said. “We start out really easy and build ourselves up. It’s all about being safe and clean. They just knew when to start kind of adding things in lightly. And they just kind of kept building up.

“They did great in this meet. I’m very happy with them and happy with the whole situation. It was nice. It was definitely so worth it and I know they’re excited too.”  

Heading into Saturday’s sectionals, Vaz feels it could be another dogfight between SJV and Freehold Township. She feels the Lancers need to tweak some things to improve on beam.

“Hopefully our girls are going to pick up the slack on a few of the problem areas,” the coach said. “It will probably be us and Township trying to duke it out again.”