Nicole, a Barrington High School senior, won the individual title at the Rhode Island Gymnastics State Championship last month.
Nicole’s achievement is especially noteworthy given the fact she spent half her season in a back brace. While she missed several meets to start the year, she eventually returned and led her team to a 9-1 regular season record, good enough for first place heading into states.
The team finished third at states while Nicole won top individual honors — first place on vault and floor, third place on bars and sixth place on beam.
“It felt really good to capture the title, I was really proud of myself for overcoming my injury and making it to states in the first place, so winning the meet was a little unexpected but it was an amazing moment. I felt confident heading into the meet, not that I would win, but that I would do my best. It just happened on that day that my best would be what won the meet,” Nicole said.
“This was an amazing way to end my senior year, especially starting out the season in a back brace. My initial goals for the season were to just compete at least once, so winning the individual and winning the division along with my team was just over the top.”
Nicole’s injury was one of the questions facing the girls’ gymnastics team this year. The group didn’t have enough athletes to field a competitive squad at the start of the winter sports season, and though they eventually recruited enough students, Nicole said the team still had a pretty low profile around the high school.
Some students didn’t even know there was a Barrington High School gymnastics team.
Since the squad’s strong showing and Nicole’s individual victory, however, she said more people have started talking about BHS gymnastics.
“It’s such a small team and since we practice off-site, it sort of gets forgotten,” Nicole said.
“A lot of my teachers talked to me about our success in winning our division and the individual championship this year and now at least they seem to be aware that we have a team. I think the students also realize this now because of hearing the teachers talk to me about it in class … We had a small team but it had a lot of heart.”
The team’s performance was impressive enough to earn the state D-I gymnastics sportsmanship award, as determined by coaches throughout the league.
Barrington High School director of athletics and student activities George Finn said he hopes this winter’s gymnastics season serves as a boost for the program. He said it was the first time in 15 years Barrington finished the regular season atop Division I.
“They came together as a young group. Our two senior leaders [Nicole and senior Caroline Huang] brought these kids together,” Mr. Finn said.
“They had a great season … People were pretty excited about it.”
Nicole said she will miss the high school gymnastics team, where she has spent the last four years. She calls the group her “little family.”
“They realize that hard work pays off and since only Caroline and I are graduating, they will still have a great foundation for next year,” Nicole said. “I just hope that they can get more people interested in the sport. Maybe now that we did so well, more students will step up and join.”
Nicole, meanwhile, has no plans to slow down. She still works out during the week in addition to coaching. She’s taught other gymnasts between 5 and 11 years old for two years in Bristol. She said she loves being able to teach kids the sport she has dedicated her life to.
Nicole also has to keep training if she wants to compete at the next level. She will attend Springfield College next year where she hopes to make the gymnastics team.
“I can only hope to improve and excel in the direction that I am moving and so far that is exactly what I’m doing,” she said.