Ridgefield High School gymnastics team prepares for comeback after the holidays

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The Ridgefield High School girls gymnastics team is hopeful for a successful season once they return from their holiday break, despite an injury among one of the gymnasts.

Since the team is on winter break, they will have time to recover,  rest, and prepare for their return, according to coach Richard Samuels.

“At this point, we’ve had a bit of a slow start,” said Samuels. “Hopefully, this break will give the girls some rest and we’ll be able to move on from there.”

He noted freshman Kylee Mayberry fell during a meet while on the balance beam. Mayberry hit her back on the side of the beam as she prepared for their first competition.

At the start of the season, Samuels said all of the gymnasts go through “early-season soreness,” which can be an obstacle.

“One of the challenges is from our first practice to our first competition, we only have four weeks, and that’s to get the girls in shape, create their routines, and prepare them for competition,” he said. “It’s really challenging just because of the nature of gymnastics.”

Samuels said some of the girls did not play a fall sport this year, so gymnastics would be the first sport they participate in this year. The sport, according to Samuels, requires a lot of strength and conditioning.

“When you start any kind of conditioning program, it goes from not doing anything to conditioning three or four days a week, so your body is sore and has to adapt, so we have to go through a period of weakness before we really start to demonstrate our newfound strength,” he said.

After the gymnasts establish their floor routines and adjust to the balance beam, Samuels said they can get the maximum “start value” for their competitive routine.

The team took part in their first two competitions on Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 against Mountain View and Fort Vancouver, respectively. To be eligible, gymnasts must complete at least 15 practices, so only four were eligible to participate in the first competition. During the second competition, only two gymnasts competed because their other teammates were either sick or had other school-related appointments.

“We won’t be in full strength until after the holidays,” Samuels said.

In the first competition, freshman Sasha Glenn scored 8.05 on the vault and 7.95 on the balance beam, Mayberry scored 8.4 on the vault, sophomore Kennadi Jones scored 8.25 on the vault, and Isabelle Sheley, a junior, scored 6.5 on the balance beam and 6.8 on the vault.

In the second competition, Mayberry received an 8.6 on vault and placed third overall, while Glenn secured 6.5 on the uneven bars.

Ridgefield’s team does artistic gymnastics, which is one of three categories for the sport that also includes rhythmic movement and trampoline. Because the team had less than five competitors, Samuels said they were not in the running for team standings and couldn’t be ranked against the other schools that participated. Samuels said he hopes that will change after Christmas break.

Since most of the team is new, Samuels highlighted Sheley and Paige Maier as standout gymnasts, as they are “third year veterans.” He said the duo’s leadership is very important to the team as a whole. 

“I have a fun group of young ladies,” Samuels said. “They laugh, they’re trying to develop their friendships with new people, and they bring an energy that makes an old, seasoned coach happy to be working with these athletes. I’ve been doing this a long time, so to have a young group of people that are enthusiastic and enjoy not only the sport, but each other, makes it fun.”

Samuels has coached high school gymnastics for 20 years, and gymnastics overall for 47 years.

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