Amid the popularity of team contact sports such as football, basketball and lacrosse, a few select Rye athletes dedicate themselves to a more solitary discipline: gymnastics.
By Natalie Amstutz
Amid the popularity of team contact sports such as football, basketball and lacrosse, a few select Rye athletes dedicate themselves to a more solitary discipline: gymnastics. There is no varsity gymnastics team at Rye High, but sophomores Caroline Amstutz, Bonnie Gould, and Jennifer Wales plus senior Mary Murtagh spend hours a week at nearby gymnastics clubs honing their skills on vault, uneven bars, beam and floor. As school winds down and the girls return with medals from recent state competitions, they are headed back to the gym to begin preparing for next year.
A typical gymnastics season begins in the fall with a fortnight of intense body conditioning. After that, the athletes learn drills and new moves, and eventually design their own routines. The weeks leading up to the first meet are spent vigorously practicing and polishing routines for each apparatus, and in November, the competition season officially kicks off.
Most gymnastics clubs follow the National Junior Olympic program, which organizes competitions by levels of difficulty up to level 10 for the nation’s most advanced gymnasts. Gymnasts usually participate in seven meets in a season and those who earn a qualifying all-around score become eligible to compete in the State Gymnastics Championships for their level.
This year, all four of Rye High School’s gymnasts qualified for States. Gould and Wales, who train at the White Plains YWCA, both competed in Level 7 States in Rochester, and Wales earned second place for her floor routine. Amstutz also represented the YWCA Tumblettes for the Level 8 State Championship, and won a gold medal on floor for her age group. Murtagh qualified for States and Regionals this year, and will represent the Darien Gymnastics Club in Nationals for Level 8 in the end of June.
Their successes do not come without hard work and sacrifices. The girls attend three-hour long practices most days, totaling to a 15-plus hour commitment per week. As they progress through high school and handle an increased workload, Gould points out that “it can get quite complicated, especially this year, taking an AP. Next year will prove even harder.”
These gymnasts also train in absence of the strong school spirit and support that many high school varsity athletes receive from their peers. As Gould explains, “I don’t think that other students are very aware of gymnastics in Rye, mostly because there is not a high school team.” RHS gymnasts don’t have posters covering their lockers before big meets or crowds of fans at their competitions; in fact, their dedication to the gym is largely unknown to the majority of the student body. However, Gould’s teammate, Jennifer Wales, finds a silver lining in their sport’s separation from school life: “It’s so nice to have another group of people, outside of school, who I can hang out with.”
Perhaps the busy gymnasts’ greatest reward is that gymnastics provides an outlet for pressure, helping them cope with the stresses of high school. Wales finds that “tumbling is really stress relieving,” and that during practice she “can leave anything that happened that day outside of the gym and forget about it for a few hours.”
Though balancing gymnastics with schoolwork is a challenge, a passion for their sport helps the gymnasts develop a focus, which undoubtedly serves them well in the classroom.
The author is a senior at Rye High School, who has been interning at The Rye Record this spring.