MECHANICSVILLE, VA (WWBT)- Not since the mid-1990s has Highland Springs had a gymnastics team, but the spear-heading and hard work of head coach Wendy Beazley stuck the landing.
“I’ve coached private club gymnastics for a while,” Beazley said. “I thought it would be something fun and different to bring a new sport to Highland Springs since they haven’t had one for so many years.”
“I literally ran up and down the hallways,” said senior gymnast Celesia Smith about hearing the news of a gymnastics program coming to the school. “I was so excited.”
Fundraising has yet to really get off the ground, so with the help of Highland Springs Director of Student Activities Rick Lilly, and with Richmond Twisters gym providing a workout space, ten Springer athletes are able to practice and fine-tune their skills. The program got a big boost from Richmond Twisters’ owner Lisa Holloway, as well as Fifth Day Creations, which made a push for donations to help get things off the ground. Those donations allowed the team to get tee-shirts and sweatshirts.
“I did [gymnastics] my whole life,” senior Elana Grant said. “I took a break for a couple of years, so when they finally got it back it just meant a lot to me.”
“I have a short fuse, I have a short temper,” Smith added. “This definitely helps me release everything.”
The student-athletes are not only seeing their skills improve, but they’re growing together as a team, and the chemistry among the teammates is strong, especially for a first-year program.
“I did a lot of just watching them support one another, make the corrections, and they really listen to each other and they respect each other,” Beazley noted.
“Pure joy,” Grant said. “I love hanging out with them all the time. It’s just a great bond to have with them and I hope to continue it even when the season’s over.”
Things are progressing during the first season, maybe more so than Beazley initially thought they would. She recalled a group that was a bit scared and apprehensive during the first practice and showed a lot of nerves during the first meet. But the Springers have made steady improvements and last week, with just four meets under their belts, they won a competition for the first time.
“It meant everything to us,” Grant said. “We’ve been working so hard all the time, so when we finally won it, everybody was happy and excited.”
“Just to beat a group of really good schools really boosted our confidence,” senior Kendall Fitz added.
Beazley hopes to see the program gain momentum in the years to come, but there will always be something special about this first group. These student-athletes are those who brought the sport back to the hallways of Highland Springs, and for that, they’ll always earn a perfect ten.
“It means that we’re just the trailblazers,” smiled Fitz. “We’re just doing what we do.”
“We get to build the foundation and people get to continue it from what we did and be even better than what we could do,” Grant said.
Beazley notes that this first team will be hard to top.
“They’ve set the bar high, set the bar really high. Just to see where they were to where they are now and then taking that first place last week, they definitely have come a long way.”
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