2014 champions: Lancaster edged out Williamsville South, 110.5-108.725, in the 2014 sectionals to win the Division I championship. Hamburg and Frontier finished with 103.625 and 103.250, respectively. Now-graduated Courtney Bondanza won the all-around, beam and bars to lead Lancaster. Also graduated Rachel Filipski won the vault for Lancaster, and junior teammate Mackenzie Donner won the floor competition as Lancaster swept first in all events. Orchard Park won the Division II championship.
Top 2014 underclassmen: Donner-11 (Lancaster), Michaela Kacmarski-11 (Frontier), Zoe Kyriakopoulos-8 (Williamsville North), Rebecca Obrachta-8 (Orchard Park). Members of the 2014-15 Section VI state team included Williamsville North's Madison Penetrante-8, Williamsville South's Miranda Roberson-10 and Gabbi Gare-8, Frontier's Michaela Kacmarski-11 and Savannah Gonsiorek-10, Hamburg's Katheryn Dehlinger-9 and Lancaster's Makenzie Castiglione-8.
Do you know Zoe? It’s rare a 13-year-old gymnast can be considered a favorite, but Kyriakopoulos must be considered that. After placing second in the all-around for the last two years, this could be Kryiakopoulos’ year. She competed for Williamsville South in seventh and eighth grade, but will compete for her home district Will. North in high school. “Zoey would be the No. 1 person going in and if everything goes right she should be able to win,” said Williamsville South coach Kurt Stumpf, who has also coached her in club for the past six years. She is a Level 10 gymnast, which is the highest level in the Junior Olympic program. She’s qualified for nationals for the past two years, which makes her one of the top seven gymnasts in the Northeast and top 56 in the nation, according to Stumpf. “She’s an up-and-coming superstar,” he said. Kryiakopoulos will be a part of a talented, young Will North team coached by Torey Hirsch, the co-founder of Greater Buffalo Gymnastic Center and last coached North in 2007.
Donner’s strength: “Very strong lady. I can’t emphasis that enough how strong she is,” said Lancaster coach Donna Aquino. “We are always talking about her confidence. She doesn’t know she’s that good.” Donner, who also plays club soccer, is working back from a hip injury.
Open field: Whereas entering last season Lancaster had Section VI champion returnees in Bondanza (who won first place in three Section VI championship events) and Filipski, Donner is the lone returning Section VI champion. Bondanza and Filipski both graduated and that leaves a lot of new opportunities for new faces to emerge as champions in November. Lancaster graduated all six of its sectional qualifiers from last fall.
From the coach: “It’s going to be close this year, I really think it’s going to be close,” Aquino said. “It will be a challenge this year.” Other key returns are Kelly Rose Devine (junior) and Hannah Maciejewski (senior).
Save the dates: Frontier vs. Lancaster on Oct. 15; Lancaster, Hamburg and Williamsville South in Oct. 20 tri-meet.
Championship time: Williamsville South will host the Section VI Championship on Nov. 5. States take place Feb. 26 in Albany. Boys gymnastics was discontinued by Section VI this year.
Who’s going to be Prep Talk Player of the Year? Kyriakopoulos and Donner figure to be the two favorites. Lancaster's Courtney Bondanza, the 2014 and '15 winner, will compete at University of New Hampshire this year. The Prep Talk Awards will be held June 15 at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.
Our special #PrepTalkPreview edition for fall sports will be published in The Buffalo News on Aug. 27.
It will include: