That’s an impressive record for any team and it’s definitely not too shabby for a group that wasn’t sure it would have enough athletes to field a team a few months ago.
When Barrington High School held its annual winter sports meeting late last year, only five students came out for gymnastics – one shy of the six required to compete.
The team was also facing the possibility that, should it find enough gymnasts, it would have to take on the rest of D-I without its strongest competitor. Senior Nicole Silva, one of the top-ranked gymnasts in Rhode Island, started the season as a question mark with an injury.
“Our goal was sportsmanship,” said head coach Johanna Marcel.
But with a little bit of luck and plenty of hard work, the team turned its doubt-ladened season into success.
The group recruited a pair of freshman cheerleaders to help round out the numbers and by mid-season, Silva returned. The team also includes one of only two male gymnasts in the state – freshman Christopher Gilbert. His routines don’t count for points but Marcel said he provides a big boost in morale.
Barrington won its first three matches of the year and, after suffering a loss on Jan. 26, won its final six matches.
The team didn’t crush any of its opponents but pulled out tough, close wins week after week. The Eagles largest margin of victory was seven though most wins came by fewer than five.
A perfect example of the eagles perseverance was the final meet of the regular season. The group needed to beat North Kingstown to finish in first. The final score? 134.08 to 133.85.
“It’s been amazing,” Marcel said.
That final match was actually postponed from a week earlier due to weather. Coincidentally, the delay pushed the state meet back one week, an advantageous turn of events for Barrington.
Junior Magdalena Rainey, the team’s number two, spent February vacation out of the country. Though the team thought they would be without her going into states, the delay put Rainey back in the line-up.
Marcel and a number of gymnasts interviewed last week said they felt confident heading into state’s but they were also respectful of the competition including North Kingstown and perennial state champ LaSalle.
Collectively, the group described itself as a fun-loving bunch, something that has been crucial to team’s ability to overcome what could have easily been a disappointing campaign.
“They’re definitely a fun group,” Marcel said.
“They’re loud, they’re fun. They’re just a good, good group of kids.”
Junior Alexandria Personeus said the year has been a dream come true. She’s watched the roster ebb and flow in her three years on the team and though this group might be smaller, it has plenty of heart.
“We’re all really different but we come together,” she said.
“All I can say is we have a lot of fun. We’re always laughing. There’s a lot of random dancing to the radio. We always manage to have fun with it.”
Maxine Rasnick, a sophomore, said she never thought the team would make it this far.
“You would never think we’d all get together because we’re so different but we all love each other, like a family,” she said.
Silva said the team’s success is a product of its work ethic. Despite the year’s early trepidation, Silva said the group’s ability to put it aside and focus has paid off.
“We ended up with a bunch of really hard working people who are really invested in the team. It worked really well,” she said.
“If you work really hard, you’ll succeed. So that’s what we did.”