Gymnastics team vaults to success

By Rachel Lang

With each perfectly maneuvered leap, flip and roundoff, the gymnastics team is tumbling its way to victory.

Photo courtesy of Grace Chandler.

The team officially began practicing on March 1, after junior Sam Buxbaum revived the team from its 19 year hiatus. She had struggled to bring a gymnastics team back to Whitman since her freshman year.

According to team captain and founder Buxbaum, her main reason for starting the team was to create a place where everyone could just be themselves, work out and have a fun time.

“Gymnastics is really fun,” she said. “It’s a really good way to exercise and put yourself out there.”

When the team began, the expense of obtaining the necessary equipment was so high that team members had to request donations from their friends and family. Their campaign rose over $4,500, enough to buy a beam, vaulting horse, runway, springboard, a set of bars and floor mats.

Despite popular belief that it’s a club, the 14 member inaugural team actually competes as a varsity sport. Montgomery and Anne Arundel County are the only counties in the state whose public high schools boast gymnastics teams.

Under Buxbaum’s leadership, the girls have placed highly in their meets. They’ve competed against Blair and Walter Johnson and were able to bring home the gold against Blake and Sherwood. Whitman didn’t host any meets this year, the team hopes to have at least one home meet next season.

Rebecca Curtis, Mica Hinga and Buxbaum have placed in every meet, while Curtis and national beam champion Lindsay Hatcher traveled to Massachusetts to compete in Nationals with their club teams.

At the county tournament on May 3, the team placed fifth out of seven teams, beating Gaithersburg and Blake. Hinga, Buxbaum and Curtis placed high enough to advance to the state championships.

“I think we’re doing amazing for a brand new team,” sophomore Molly Moriarty said. “We just started this year and we have already gotten first in a meet; it’s incredible.”

The team attributes its success to club gymnasts Buxbaum, Hatcher, Curtis and Hinga. Serving as role models for the gymnasts, they lend a watchful eye, offer advice and demonstrate intricate moves.

“They know a ton of routines that are easier for younger girls from when they were at lower levels,” said junior Grace Chandler, who is new to the sport. “They also know the rules and elements we need.”

Coach Paul Belliveau said he is impressed by the amount of acrobatic and gymnastics experience that the athletes possess, but  he still plans to implement changes for next year. He has some ideas, but expects the girls to contribute some of their own as well.

“The girls didn’t know what to expect from high school gymnastics this year,” he said. “I intend to listen to my athletes about what they think worked this year and what didn’t.”

The team agreed that one thing that won’t need any modifications is their team spirit. Many of the team members said that the bonding was one of the best aspects of their season.

“The team has a fantastic attitude, work ethic and sense of camaraderie,” Belliveau said. “Those qualities will lead to improvement elsewhere.”