Ludlowe repeats as FCIAC gymnastics champion; Warde’s Emma Johnson individual winner

FAIRFIELD – Ava Mancini placed second in the all-around while helping a deep and balanced Fairfield Ludlowe team defend its title in the 2021 FCIAC Gymnastics Championships in late March.

Mancini placed second in two events and had an all-around score of 36.35 as she was runner-up to champion Emma Johnson of Fairfield Warde, who won two of the four events to win the all-around with a score of 36.9.

Fairfield Ludlowe’s Falcons scored 138.9 points as a team to win by .85 of a point over Warde, which placed second with 138.05.

Trumbull finished third with 137.5 points and was followed by St. Joseph (135.1), Wilton (134.55) and Staples (131.05).

“Winning the FCIAC championship with 138.9 points and winning back-to-back after having won last year, it was such a nice surprise,” Fairfield Ludlowe coach Kim Longobucco said. “I didn’t expect it. I knew we were good and I knew we were going to be competitive. It was anybody’s game.”

Longobucco’s Falcons were seeded third via the teams’ scoring averages from meets during the regular season. St. Joseph was seeded first, Trumbull was second and Fairfield Warde was fourth. But those top four were extremely close in the scoring averages which ranged from 138.3 to 138.7.

“Ironically enough, the top four teams were all within 4/10ths of a point of each other, which meant we were all pretty spot on with talent level and it was going to come down to who showed up that day,” Longobucco pointed out.

The conference’s administrators and gymnastics coaches designed a unique FCIAC championship meet to adhere to social-distancing safety measures.

Instead of having all the conference’s teams participate, those top six teams based on team scoring averages competed in the FCIAC championship meet which consisted of three separate meets involving just two teams at the same meet at the same Gymnastics and Cheer Academy venue in Fairfield.

The first meet was Friday, March 26, and there were two separate meets the following Saturday. The first meet, designated Session 1, involved Staples and Wilton. Trumbull and Warde competed in the Saturday afternoon Session 2, followed by St. Joseph and Ludlowe in the evening Session 3.

“All the meets were at the same location with the same equipment and same judges,” Longobucco said. “Typically we try to get as many teams as possible but that really wasn’t a reality this year because of the space logistics of the gym.

“It was definitely a totally different experience. Last year we had everyone at the big gym at Westhill and all the fans were there. This year three/quarters of the teams were at home and watching me livestreaming it on Instagram.”

Johnson, a superb sophomore, won the balance beam with a 9.4 and the floor exercise with a 9.2 en route to her total of 36.9 which was .55 of a point higher than Mancini’s runner-up score of 36.35. Johnson also placed second on the uneven bars (9.15) and tied for fourth on the vault (9.15).

Mancini, the defending all-around champion, was runner-up on the vault (9.3) and balance beam (9.25) and sixth on the uneven bars (8.85) and floor exercise (8.95).

Johnson and Mancini both surpassed Mancini’s score of 35.25 last year when Mancini won the Ro Carlucci Award which is awarded to the FCIAC all-around champion. The award honors the memory and legacy of the late Carlucci, the former successful coach at Westhill and then an excellent gymnastics judge.

Longobucco had the utmost respect for Carlucci and recalls her as a valuable mentor when Longobucco got into coaching in this area about 15 years ago.

Johnson suffered a knee injury midway through last season and was unable to compete in that conference championship meet.

Although Johnson and Mancini attend different public high schools in the same town, it would be hard to consider them rivals in the true sense of the word because they are also club teammates who push and support each other at Gymnastics and Cheer Academy under coach Longobucco.

“I know Emma is thrilled for Ava and, vice-versa, Ava is equally thrilled for Emma,” Longobucco said. “They’re club teammates and good friends.”

Lindsay Capobianco of St. Joseph placed third in the all-around with 35.55 points. She placed third on the balance beam (9.2), fifth on the floor exercise (9.0) and tied for sixth on the vault (8.7).

Mia Guster of Staples won the vault with a 9.35, nipping Mancini by .05 of a point. Guster was runner-up on the floor exercise with a 9.15 which was just .05 of a point behind Johnson’s winning score of 9.2.

Ellie Forma of Trumbull won the uneven bars with an excellent performance which resulted in the elevated score of 9.5. Johnson placed second with a 9.15.

Wilton’s Olivia Mannino placed fourth in the all-around for the second straight year as her score of 35.4 was an improvement of 1.25 points from last year’s score of 34.15. Mannino tied for fourth on the vault (9.15) and placed sixth on the balance beam (8.95).

Caitlin Vozzella of St. Joseph placed third on the uneven bars (9.0) and tied for sixth on the vault (8.7) and that enabled her to finish fifth in the all-around (35.1).

Trumbull’s Kenna Stevenson was sixth in the all-around (34.85), led by her finishing third on the vault (9.2) and tying for fifth on the balance beam (8.95).

Tara Chomienne placed fourth on the floor exercise (9.05) and fifth on the uneven bars (8.9), Ava Golding was third on the balance beam (9.0), while Abigail Cerny took fourth on the vault (8.8) to contribute to Ludlowe’s championship.

“We were very fortunate,” Longobucco said. “We had tremendous depth. You can have a rock star on your team but if you can’t back it up with depth, you’re not going to win this meet. The key is having three or four solid girls in each event. That’s what makes our team a success.”

It was especially impressive what the gymnasts accomplished during this abnormal conference championship meet because they did it without having the energy of the traditional large crowd at Westhill to feed off. The top six all-around scores this year were higher than last year’s in each of the top six places.

2021 FCIAC Gymnastics Championships

TEAM SCORES – Fairfield Ludlowe 138.9, Fairfield Warde 138.05, Trumbull 137.5, St. Joseph 135.1, Wilton 134.55, Staples 131.05.

All-Around – Emma Johnson (Warde), 36.9; Ava Mancini (Ludlowe) 36.35; Lindsay Capobianco (St. Joseph) 35.55; Olivia Mannino (Wilton) 35.4, Caitlin Vozzella (St. Joseph) 35.1; Kenna Stevenson (Trumbull) 34.85.

Vault – Mia Guster (Staples) 9.35; Mancini (Ludlowe) 9.3; Stevenson (Trumbull) 9.2; Johnson (Warde) and Mannino tied, 9.15; Abigail Cerny (Ludlowe) 8.8; Capobianco (St. Joseph), Vozzella (St. Joseph) and Kiera Dawson (Warde) tied, 8.7.

Uneven Bars – Ellie Forma (Trumbull) 9.5; Johnson (Warde) 9.15; Vozzella (St. Joseph) 9.0; Caroline Garrett (Warde) 8.95; Tara Chomienne (Ludlowe) 8.9; Mancini (Ludlowe) 8.85.

Balance Beam – Johnson (Warde) 9.4; Mancini (Ludlowe) 9.25; Capobianco (St. Joseph) 9.2; Ava Golding (Ludlowe) 9.0; Stevenson (Trumbull) and Kaylie Bernhouse (Warde) tied, 8.95; Mannino (Wilton), 8.9.

Floor Exercise – Johnson (Warde) 9.2; Guster (Staples) 9.15 Justine Biersack (Wilton) 9.1; Chomienne (Ludlowe) 9.05; Capobianco (St. Joseph) 9.0; Mancini (Ludlowe) 8.95.

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