There's no denying that gymnasts spend a good portion of their time up in the air, but that phrase takes on a whole new meaning when applied to the boys gymnastics programs in Section VI.
Only four teams are scheduled to compete in the Section this season with Sweet Home having dropped its boys team since last season and Amherst participating only on an extramural level.
"I had to make a decision based on the numbers, and since we had only three kids out for the team, that kind of made the decision for me," lamented Amherst coach Jim Reynard. "We will be competing only in exhibition meets and hopefully, we can make a comeback as a varsity team next year."
The move is especially unfortunate for Reynard's son, Kevin. The Amherst junior went to the state meet last year as a sophomore, competing in the parallel bars, but he will only be able to watch from the sidelines this year.
"Kevin's disappointed, naturally," said his father. "He realizes the situation we're in, but that doesn't make it any easier."
Section VI is expected to release its schedule next week and the remaining teams are looking for meets to fill the requirement of at least six meets to qualify for state competition.
"We are going to begin the season in early October, but we don't have a schedule together yet because we didn't know until recently which schools would be competing," said Section VI chairman Bob Beach, the coach at Hamburg.
"We will be traveling to Rochester for a couple of meets to fulfill the requirement," said Torey Hirsch, who coaches the teams at Williamsville East, North and South. "The lack of numbers is a disturbing trend and it is one that is being felt statewide. At last year's state meet, only five sections participated."
Section VI has traditionally made a strong showing at the state meet and that should be the case again this year. Williamsville East is the team to beat again in Section VI, but Hamburg, last year's runner-up, might be ready to make a bid for the area's top spot.
"East is awfully tough, but we'll be right behind them," said Beach. "Their top two kids are just so good that, unless one of them were out for a while, they should finish on top again."
Those two stalwarts for the Flames are junior Bryan Murty and senior Steve Joyce. To put Murty's dominance of the sport locally into perspective, he is the four-time defending all-around champion. His title streak began when he was a seventh-grader.
Joyce was the runner-up in the Sectional all-around standings last year and was the area's best on the rings and parallel bars. Murty excels in the floor exercise and vault.
Hamburg has a star of its own in junior Chris Centrich, who holds school records in five of seven events. He also competes in the pole vault for the Bulldogs' track team.
"Chris isn't a big kid at 5-foot-6 and about 135 pounds, but he has a ton of strength," Beach said. "As a seventh-grader, he could do 20 chin-ups and that's pretty rare."
Senior Jim Wentz has gone to the state meet twice in the high bar for Hamburg while junior Jim O'Hara is an all-around competitor who is tough in the vault and floor exercise.
Leading a young contingent at Williamsville North are freshmen Josh Olson and Matt Roberts.
The Williamsville South Billies are the hunted this year in ECIC II. Winning Section VI and Far West Regional titles last year have put them on top of everybody else's hit list.
South lost scoring leader Julie Gentner to graduation, but attacker Jenny Heffler and defender Jill DeStefano are trying to keep the Billies on top. . . . Amherst should contend with the help of Empire State Games veterans Lauren Bruce and Jenny Vastola. . . . Iroquois counts on high-scoring Kristy Reed and Kelly Johnson, who was injured for part of last season, but has come back strongly. . . . Kristin Etengoff, Carrie Schober, Angela Veanes and goalies Anastasia Malagisi and Katie Fels make Williamsville East dangerous. . . . Defending Class C sectional champ Eden is led by midfielder Sarah Hermann and goalie Nicole Kozak.
In Division I, Sweet Home has one of the area's top players in junior midfielder Lauren Stiver while Kristen Cavaretta and Sarah Barnes are also top contributors. . . . Senior Sara Colombo leads Williamsville North, which had a pair of outstanding defenders in Shelby Lewis and Michelle Lewis, who are not related. . . . Lancaster is counting on sophomore goalie Shyla Grooms, senior defender Angela Jarnot and junior attacker4 Katie Campbell. . . . Jesse Goodrich and Courtney Squire will provide much of the offense for West Seneca West in front of goalie Jamie Srergiej. . . . Hamburg could contend behind goalie Sheila Powenski and attacker Maria Greene.
Nichols, an independent power, is led by Emily Becker-Weidman and Peggy McKendry on defense and Whitney Carbone and Cate Chiantella on the attack. Sophomore Sara Huckabone looks sharp in goal.
When it comes to Section VI girls tennis, the queen is still on the throne . . . and she could remain there for quite a long time.
Williamsville East's Lyndsay Shosho has won the sectional singles championship each of the past two years and she is just a sophomore. Shosho has a powerful stroke that she uses to keep opponents pinned to the baseline, making it difficult for them to go on the attack. Joining Shosho in the state tourney last year was teammate Courtney Klein, who is now entering her junior season. Last year, the Flames snapped Orchard Park's state-record win streak at 159 matches. . . . Hamburg is led by sophomore Jill Adornetto, who went to states last year in doubles.
Defending Niagara Frontier League champion North Tonawanda, 13-0 last year, has gotten off to a 2-0 start this season, including a 5-1 win over Nichols, which figures to battle the Lady 'Jacks for the crown. Sophomore Kristen McKay and junior Holly Zielinski hold down the top two singles spots for NT. . . . Kristina Koul and Jessica Vogler return for Nichols. . . . Margaret Wielopolski and Kelly Booth are back in singles for Kenmore West. . . . Becky Sheehan is tough at first singles for Niagara-Wheatfield.