Oceanside among top contenders

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Led by some of Nassau’s top all-around gymnasts and with plenty of talent behind them, Oceanside is looking to at least duplicate last season’s third-place county finish while making a push for the title.

“It’s really wide open,” Lady Sailors longtime coach Andy Morris said of the race for the team championship, set to be decided Feb. 14 at Bethpage. “This could be the first season ever where the top eight teams all come in averaging in the 160s,” he added. “It’s a lot of fun but also a lot of pressure.”

Oceanside was undefeated through seven meets before losing a nail-biter at South Side on Jan. 15, by one-tenth of a point, 165.25 to 165.15. “You’re talking a sneeze or a cough,” Morris said of the difference. “Both teams had their highest scores of the season. It’s a tough way to lose, but credit goes to South Side and we’ll just keep pushing and moving forward.”

Seniors Lexi Kessler and Amanda Eidelman are Oceanside’s veteran leaders with a combined 11 seasons of varsity experience. Kessler, a three-time state qualifier, is in her sixth campaign and is averaging in the high 33s in the all-around. Eidelman and freshman Emme Ortiz are both posting high 32s.

“Lexi has been the backbone of the team for a long time,” Morris said. “Everyone raves about her floor routine and she’s just a tremendous all-around competitor.”

Kessler (six-time All-County) has scored a high of 9.35 on floor and 9.3 on the balance beam. She also ranks at the top of the team’s vaulting depth chart with Ortiz, with both averaging 8.4.

Morris said Eidelman “works as hard as anyone and gets the most out of every minute in the gym.” She’s hit a 9.15 floor routine and 9.0 on beam. “Amanda is always eager to compete,” he added.

Eidelman and Ortiz are both two-time All-County honorees. Ortiz ranks either first or second on the team on floor (high of 9.15), vault and uneven bars (8.1 avg.) “Emme has a beautiful floor routine and is working to bring her vault to another level,” Morris said.

The Lady Sailors dealt with early adversity when junior Emma Gehrig, a key contributor last winter, was ruled out for the season with a knee injury. However, an energizing group of sophomores have stepped up to make a difference, Morris explained. “One of them is always picking up the slack,” Morris said of leading 10th-graders Megan Reynolds, Megan Rugolo, Jessica Brew, Sarah Eidelman and Kayla Kessler. Reynolds is the team’s top performer on bars, while Rugolo ranks third on vault. “It’s the kind of group I’d be happy to go out [retire] with,” he added.

The Lady Sailors have five regular-season meets remaining. Morris, who is two years shy from his 40th coaching the program, has Feb. 12 circled on the calendar since Oceanside will host the state qualifier/Nassau individual championship meet. “We peaked at the perfect time last season and I’m hoping it happens again,” he said.