Noah Roberson is in the unique position where he can see the past, present and future of the Williamsville South gymnastics program, and he barely needs to leave the dinner table.
He sees the past in his brother, Nathaniel, who graduated last year after a highly-accomplished career. He’s all about the present as he’s in the midst of a monster senior year. And he sees what the future holds as his younger sister, Miranda, intends to carry on the family tradition.
“She got us into the sport, she did it first and my brother and I were like, ‘We should try it,’ ” said Noah. “We came in like when we were 6 or 8 [years old]. I was a little chubby kid and everything scared me.”
Those fears have long been put to rest. Noah is the defending Section VI champion in floor exercise with a 9.3 and was runner-up in the vault and parallel bars. His signature move on the floor is a double-twisting, double back flip. He is the clear favorite to win the all-around title at this year’s Section VI Championships on Nov. 1 at Williamsville South. He currently has the highest scores in WNY on all six apparatus and has a 55.35 score in the all-around.
Big brother Nathaniel couldn’t have set a better example. He won last year’s Section VI title in the vault and was runner-up in the all-around. He was named co-Senior Gymnast of the Year and was the Scholar-Athlete Achievement award winner.
He owns a share of the Section VI record in the horizontal bar with a score of 9.65. He’s currently a freshman at the University of Rochester, where he’s studying pre-med on an academic scholarship.
Miranda is just an eighth-grader, but she already has started to write her own history. She and Ana Reyes of Williamsville East currently share the highest score in Section VI in the floor exercise with a 9.35. Miranda is also ranked in the top five on the uneven bars, balance beam and the all-around.
“I like the floor. My floor routine helps me express my personality and I like it because it’s one of those events where there’s less of a fear thing and it’s more of a go-for-it and be yourself out there,” she said.
Miranda is just one of several outstanding gymnasts at South. She is joined by Michaela Stumpf and Lily Szafranski.
Western New York’s most impressive brother-sister combo see each other while practicing for South, and their workout times at Stumpf’s in Williamsville overlap somewhat. Joe Buscaglia coaches them in both venues and says they enjoy the comfort of knowing the other one is there.
“Noah watches out for her,” he said. “They push each other to do their best, and being in the same sport, they understand how much hard work and dedication it takes to be successful. They encourage each other to be the best, and they learned that also from their older brother.”
Noah is a Level 10 gymnast, and he’s ranked among the top five in his class academically. Even with those credentials, a college career presents many challenges, especially for those pursuing an athletic scholarship.
There are only 18 NCAA Division I men’s gymnastics programs in the country. The closest scholarship-offering colleges to Buffalo are Temple University (Pa.) and Springfield (Mass.). Army, which doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, is the only Division I program in New York State.
Williamsville South, East and North boys field a combined team with approximately 16 athletes, but they do compete separately.
Besides Roberson, the Williamsville roster includes sophomore Stephen Frost of East, who will likely finish second at sectionals. North’s roster includes top scorers Zach Neira, Austin Santora and Zachary Zhang.
All of the boys on the Williamsville teams are coached by Buscaglia, not to be confused with the Joe Buscaglia, who is the Buffalo Bills Radio Network Sideline reporter.
This Joe B. teaches physical education and health at Starpoint, is the Section VI boys chairman, teaches gymnastics at Stumpf’s two nights a week and has four children of his own.
He’s a 1993 graduate of Williamsville South. His wife, Margaret, is the Maryvale girls coach and his brother, Michael, coaches the Clarence boys.
Bondanza at her best
It will be tough for Courtney Bondanza to duplicate what she accomplished last year, but don’t be surprised if she pulls it off.
The Lancaster sophomore is the defending state champion on the vault and balance beam. Her efforts helped Section VI bring home the team state title as well, and Bondanza is having another big year.
Last week, she broke her own school record on uneven bars with a 9.50 and currently has the highest scores in Section VI in the vault (9.60), uneven bars (9.50) and all-around (37.35).
“She always been a great competitor,” said Lancaster coach Donna Aquino. “In seventh grade she was this tiny, little thing. Now she’s a young lady. She shows so much finesse and is very stylish. She likes to do a good job and is very disappointed when she doesn’t stick everything. She’s really a fighter.”
Another super sophomore who went to states last year for the Redskins is Rachel Filipski, who is currently ranked No. 2 in the all-around, vault and balance beam. She is the defending Section VI champ in the vault.
Lancaster senior Jenn Thill qualified for the gymnastics states, but opted for the indoor track states instead to compete in the pole vault, an event she hopes to do in college. Battling shin splits, she has limited her gymnastics appearances to the uneven bars and beam to save the pounding on her body.
Freshman Mackenzie Donner, who specializes in the floor, looks to makewwthe state team after coming up just short last year.
Injuries robbed Lancaster of some of its depth. Sophomore Stephanie Mazur, a state alternate a year ago, missed this season with a knee injury. Sophomore Brooke Delaney broke her big toe while working out at her club gym. She is on the mend and could return for sectionals, scheduled for Nov. 3 at Frontier at 3 p.m.
The Redskins are 11-0 with two meets left.
Clarence boys are 5-0
The Clarence boys have been led all year by eighth-grader Hunter Sullivan, who is eying a top-three finish at sectionals. He currently sits at third in the floor, horizontal bars, parallel bars and the all-around.
“He’s very solid, has good form and he sticks his landings,” said Clarence coach Michael Buscaglia. “The experience of being a club gymnast helps. The floor and the high bar are his best, it’s like any other sport – the more you practice. …”
Clarence has a 5-0 record with its last meet against Williamsville on Friday. The Clarence girls, meanwhile, are led by Avery Wallace.
The Hamburg girls’ depth helped them win close matches with Williamsville South and Frontier this year.
Brook and Katheryn Dehlinger will be heard from at sectionals, along with Samantha Miller and Marissa Williams.
Frontier’s Michaela Kacmarski is ranked in the top 10 in the vault, uneven bars, beam and all-around.
Other leaders of their teams are Jill Daddario (Sweet Home), Demi Xenos (Williamsville North) and Alexis Frankowski (Williamsville East).