MONTGOMERY: Fresh faces give Cougars a lift

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
The Montgomery High gymnastics team has every reason to be excited about this year’s 6-2 start.
At the same time, the Cougars can’t help but look toward the future, which promises to be a very exciting one.
Montgomery’s top three gymnasts this year are freshmen. They have combined with some solid veteran returnees to give the Cougars one of the top teams in Central Jersey.
“We have seven freshmen this year out of the 14 girls on the team,” Montgomery coach Ashley Williams said. “Before they come in as freshmen you can talk to the girls and they can tell you what skills they have. But you can’t tell until they get into the gym. We also have some juniors that came back stronger. The combination of the juniors with the new freshmen has given us a good team this year.”
The Cougars picked up their sixth win of the season on Monday when they topped Hunterdon Central, 102.375-101.85. In the meet, freshman Carolyn Maslanka was first on bars with an 8.8 and first on floor with a 9.275. Karly Kerod, another freshman, was second on floor with a 9.0 and second on vault with a 9.0. Freshman Nicole Blaylock was the Cougars’ top finisher all around with a 33.7. She was second on bars with an 8.25.
“Carolyn is my top girl right now,” Williams said. “She leads the team pretty consistently on all four events. Karly, who is also a freshman, is right up there and is strong on all four. And Nicole Blaylock is the other freshman who has been strong all season.
“Carolyn and Karly train at DC Gymnastics in Hillsborough. They train together every day and know each other well. Nicole is at Paramount Gymnastics in Hillsborough. They have all grown up with each other. It is a sport where they all bind together quickly. They are all really close.”
In addition to the trio of freshmen, several juniors have helped give the Cougars the depth they need to be successful.
“Alaina Caruso is a junior who is back,” Williams said. “She is one of the top girls we have on floor and helps add to our scores on vault as well. Allyson McCorry has just been getting back into it after an injury and is strong on beam.
“We have our four and five alternate between a few other girls. Two other juniors helping out are Helen Stevenson and Sonali Shah. They fill in on vault and bars. One other freshman who has been doing well is Jenna Sudol. She fills in on varsity floor and vault. So there is some good depth there.”
The Cougars were scheduled to host the Somerset County Championships on Thursday and will also host states and the Skyland Conference Novice meet later in the season. This season has gotten off to a great start and Williams is hopeful the success continues. Unlike many sports, gymnastics is one where freshmen can make an immediate impact and they have for the Cougars.
“It is not like other sports,” Williams said. “A lot of it is done outside school at clubs over the rest of the year. All of my freshmen are on club teams. So they come in with experience when they get to the high school program.
“I didn’t know too much about them before they got here. We had a spring meeting and I met some of them and asked about their skill level. So in June I knew they were coming.”
So, while it is easy to think long term with a team so young and talented, the Cougars have instead been focused on making this season the best it can be.
“We are definitely living in the moment and enjoying it and having a great time,” Williams said. “This is a great group this year and it is so exciting right here and now.” 