Gymnasts Set the Bar High

By Grace Wood, Staff Writer

Anticipation fills the air as Audrey Maxwell (10) steps up to the mat. She takes a deep breath and begins her running start. Her hands shoot out as she reaches the vault, and her body catapults into the air. The crowd holds their breath as Audrey comes barreling back down to her feet. She lands it! And the gym erupts in cheers!

This is the excitement that comes with competing on FC’s gymnastics team.  “Tumble, twist, flip: that’s gymnastics,” says co-captain Kay Lambert (9). The team has had four competitions, where the gymnasts competed in vault, floor, bars, and beam. They are led by Coach Pete Novgrod, who has been coaching here for five years. Before that, he instructed the collegiate team at James Madison University. “Gymnastics is the basis of all sports,” he says. “There is flexibility, strength, and focus.”

Unfortunately, the gymnasts often face criticisms. “People think it’s easy because it’s an all-girl sport, but it’s actually really difficult,” says Tam Hoang (10). So what does it take to be a gymnast?  

Audrey Maxwell, who worked for three years before achieving her back handspring, agrees. “Skills take a lot of time, and they don’t come easily,” she says. “You have to be motivated and patient.”

“Being a gymnast also requires confidence. When you perform your routine and put yourself out there, all eyes are on you and the pressure is high,” says Faith Weiss (10).

Coach Pete adds another crucial trait to the list: “You have to have perseverance to overcome the fear factor that comes with each skill level.” Coach Pete explains that gymnasts are immediately scared of the high beam. He has them practice on the low beam, and then the medium beam before finally conquering the high beam. “You have to be able to keep going.”

Finally, gymnastics is a sport that demands strength. “It takes both physical and mental strength to perform the skills,” says Megan Boyd (10). She explains that mental blocks are a constant part of gymnastics. “There are alot of odd skills that your body is not used to doing; learning bars was definitely the hardest for me.” The uneven bars in gymnastics require the gymnast to flip her entire body over a set of parallel bars.

Although extremely demanding, the gymnasts love what they do and what gymnastics has taught them. “I wish people took more time to understand the sport,” says Megan. “It’s actually really exciting to watch.”