ROXBURY, NJ — Despite losing to graduation three seniors, including powerhouse Tiffany Zieba, the Roxbury High School gymnastics team has yet to be beaten this season.

The team has a 3-0 record heading into its meet today against Indian Hills. So far, the Gaels have defeated Montclair, Clifton and Randolph.

“We were unsure of what to expect for the 2021 Roxbury gymnastics season,” said coach Kellie Damelio. “Corona, quarantine, shared sports, shared seasons and all the procedures to follow.  You kind of have to expect every day is going to be a gamble.”

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The odds of that gamble were increased by the team’s loss of seniors Ashley Miller, Megan Merola and Zieba. But other gymnasts on the team are stepping up, said the coach.

“This year, each of our gymnasts offers something personal to the dynamic,” Damelio said. “Without them, we would be severely impacted both emotionally and talent wise.”

She said Morgan Valdes is “competitive on all events,” team captain Alexis Merola is the Gaels’ “graceful beam girl and competes all around,” Katie Parr “shines on bars and is also an all around,” and Madison Hansen is “incredible to watch on both beam and floor with her dance background.”

Damelio also gave credit to other key players who accepted unanticipated challenges this year. “Ella Yarznbowicz has been competing on unfamiliar events like beam and working on getting a bar routine,” said the coach. 

She also mentioned the work of Paulina Zamora on vault and freshman Janelle Pratt “who has also been thrown into full competition mode” on vault and floor.

“Unfortunately, we had one of our eventual key freshman players, Bianca Marchese, tear her Achilles,” said Damelio. “We could really use her right now, and we hope for a speedy recovery. Hopefully she will return in the fall healthy and ready to go. We also have some gymnasts we hope to get a chance to perform soon like Amanda Hellner and Jeniah Agosto.

Complicating the Gaels’ situation this season is COVID-19. “Coach Caitlin Gluck has also taken over the reins as I have been quarantined the rest of the season,” Damelio said. “We talk daily to discuss how practice goes and our plans for the meets. Without Caty, we would have to end our season.”

As of March 29, Gluck and team manager Shaday Gibson are successfully making sure the meets are running smoothly, Damelio said.” I know spring break is going to be an interesting hurdle, and we aren’t really sure who will be quarantined day to day,” she said. “I am happy we have a season. I am proud of the girls.”

Today’s meet, at 0-2 Indian Hills High School, takes place at 5 p.m.

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