Gymnasts vault to victory


Marley Reback

Dylan Sides (11) competes in the regional meet on the uneven bars.

The gym is crowded and noisy, as several girls flip and twist through the air— it seems as if they are defying gravity. The crowd cheers for every completed contortion, every completed act of absolute focus. Their faces reveal nothing during their acts of athleticism except for a small smile to the judges when they have finally finished, a gesture of humility that makes these difficult feats look simple.

This is the scene at the VHHS Regional gymnastics meet, where the Varsity Girls Gymnastics team from VHHS competed on Tuesday, February 4th. In a tough field, the team managed to send four athletes through to the sectional meet Becca Tran (9) and Alyse Lichtenstein (10) advanced in the all-around, while Mia Mihalic (11) made the cut on balance beam and Caitlin Kolb (12) did the same on the uneven parallel bars.

A performance that goes this well is a testament to the amount of time and energy that it takes to participate on the gymnastics team at VHHS. The practices take up 12 hours a week or more, depending on the meet schedule.

They go home after intense practices, but that doesn’t excuse them from also being good students. With this in mind, having the discipline to manage time is something that gymnasts on the team must possess.

“Gymnastics has definitely taught me how to budget my time,” said Caitlin Kolb (12), a four-year member of the team, “I have to be a lot more efficient during the season.”

Along with the ability to budget their time, the girls in gymnastics have an extreme amount of mental fortitude. Not only do they have to be in their best mental state during the event itself, they must also deal with the waiting. It’s not as easy as just stepping up to the event and doing it, as the time between events could be as long as 30 minutes. For the team, this presents a clear challenge.

“I find that talking to people is the best way of relieving the stress of waiting,” said Avery Longdon (12), another four year veteran of the team.

But even with all the challenges that these girls face on a daily basis to be able to compete at the highest level, they still manage to have fun. Some of their team traditions include Lover’s Leap— a game that they sometimes play to warm up before practice—  pasta parties, and a team bonding night at Feed My Starving Children.

According to Kolb, this team bonding is an attempt to take some of the stress away from the sport, especially with the long wait that occurs between events.

It’s quite clear that the team is a cohesive group. They all have gone through the rigors of pushing one’s body to the fullest extent— both mentally and physically. Each one of them is extremely supportive of one another, and at the regional meet, this was on full display. For every completed— or not completed— movement the girls cheered nonetheless.

“We get really close through the shared struggles we face— it’s like our own ‘little family,’” said Avery Longdon (12).

In that crowded gym, it could have been much more challenging if the room was entirely comprised of silent gawking onlookers. The girls made sure this was not the case, screaming words of inspiration and cheering like crazy— even for the other teams. In a sport that is this rigorous, it can only be imagined how much that can help an athlete.