A Historic Season For Stuyvesant Gymnastics

This season, the Panthers, Stuyvesant girls’ gymnastics team, and the Lemurs, Stuyvesant boys’ gymnastics team, have impressed their competition and achieved accolades in their respective divisions.

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Astounding forward rolls. Extraordinary front handsprings. Impressive roundoff back tucks. Astonishing back layouts.

These routines are what define the sport of gymnastics. It’s what every gymnast, regardless of his or her background, mindset, or style, strives to achieve during every match through practice, repetition, and perfection. This year, both the Panthers, Stuyvesant girls’ gymnastics team, and the Lemurs, Stuyvesant boys’ gymnastics team, have impressed their competition and achieved accolades in their respective divisions. The Panthers medaled third in the Girls Gymnastics PSAL Championships and managed to cap off their season with a record-breaking overall score of 126. The Lemurs won the Boys Gymnastics PSAL Championship, along with achieving a season-high 105.8 points in the decisive meet. However, the successes of the teams do not paint the full picture of the hardships and setbacks the gymnasts have overcome throughout their season.

The Panthers

The Panthers, under the leadership of captains senior Ella Krechmer and junior Ariana DeVito along with Coach Vasken Choubaralian, initially struggled with a smaller roster and frequent injuries. Typically for each meet, there are five gymnasts that compete in each event, and only the top four scores are counted. However, the Panthers suffered from a lack of participants for the events due to many contributing factors. “There were a lot of meets where we only had three people competing for the entire competition, which meant only two people in some events. And that was because people were injured, or were sick with COVID, or were away, so that was a big struggle, and we didn’t have a full meet until our last regular meet of the season,” Krechmer explained.

However, despite these setbacks, the team was determined to make the most of their situation. “We’re all really supportive of each other, and we have a strong emphasis on each meet, regardless of who we're competing with, to do our best and it's not about the score,” Krechmer said. On December 10, in their first meet against John F. Kennedy High School, the Panthers emerged victorious with a whopping overall score of 96.45 despite competing with only five total members. Though the team has struggled in subsequent meets, suffering consecutive defeats against the Bronx Science Wolverines, the gymnasts made a valiant effort during each event. On January 12, though the Panthers were defeated by the Wolverines, freshman Alisa Long claimed the number one spot for the balance beam event, and DeVito likewise emerged first for the floor exercise event. With outstanding individual performances from key gymnasts, the Panthers looked to persevere through tough times.

The Panthers also managed to bond with one another both in and out of meets and practices. “Meets are already a really supportive environment, but especially after meets, when we were all tired, we would just sit, and we would eat snacks and talk, and it was really cool getting to know each other,” Krechmer said when describing the team chemistry. Certainly, the connection between the gymnasts proved key throughout the highs and lows of the Panthers’ season.

As the finals drew closer for the team, circumstances looked to lighten up with the return of a few key members of the squad. The finals took place on February 16, and the Panthers, the Wolverines, the Tottenville Pirates, and the Curtis High School team competed in contention for the PSAL Championships. In the finals, the Panthers placed third, with a commendable effort from all the gymnasts. Coach Choubaralian said, “The team scored a historic high score of 126 points. This was largely thanks to two new members of the team, Alisa Long and Margaux Scandura.” Krechmer also explained how the season’s highlight was their success in the finals. “We had three people qualify for states for the team [...] [and] for all my years here there has only been one member of our team that has qualified. I got a ribbon, which was crazy for me, and it just was a really good year overall,” Krechmer said.

Despite struggles with injuries and a short roster, the Panthers achieved their goal of a historic season, consisting of an all-time record score and placing third in the PSAL Championships. However, it wasn’t the achievements of the team or the hardships that the gymnasts overcame, but rather the collective chemistry and culture of gymnastics that was emphasized this season. “I think [I will miss] everything because this season has been the best one so far, and I think spending time with my teammates is probably the thing I’m going to miss the most,” Krechmer said.

The Lemurs

Coach Marvin Autry led the Lemurs this season along with captains seniors Mohammad Rahim and Ivan Mijacika. Heading into the PSAL season plagued with the rise of COVID-19 cases across the city did not stray the team away from their goals. Coach Autry explained the main objective: “Winning the championship. That’s not an easy thing, [...] I told the kids that after they make the team, they would have to pick up at least one gymnastics skill a week.”

In order to achieve these high ambitions, the Lemurs needed to work together in order to overcome their poor form. Many of the gymnasts on the Lemurs’ roster this season started off as beginners, and as such, they needed to perfect their skills. Rahim said, “Coming back to school, we forgot a lot of routines and skills we had—for example, how to set up, how to take down, a lot of the stretches and conditioning.” However, the team began to find its groove within the first few weeks of practices, and thus were able to have the upper hand over their opponents during meets.

Throughout the regular season, the Lemurs dominated their competition, achieving overall scores over 90 during each meet. The team earned three consecutive victories, winning 97.6-81.5 against the LaGuardia Lions, 99.7-46.2 against the Tottenville Pirates, and 97.8-80.1 against the Long Island City Bulldogs. Mijacika and Rahim led in scores for most of the events, with commendable efforts from sophomore Kohl Shepherd and junior Andrew Poon. Rahim attributed the team’s successes to constant practices both in and out of meets. “There’s this place called Aviator Sports Center, where we usually go on the weekends and we’re usually tumbling or [practicing] high bar and really refining these skills. We’re not allowed the usual three hours we have at practice, [...] and so we had to put in the time during the weekends,” Rahim explained.

Similarly to the Panthers, the Lemurs relied on strong chemistry within the team in order to cultivate an effective gymnastics culture and build a strong team. “I think what makes our team so special is that it’s not too big. We only have fifteen guys, and everyday everyone shows up to practice, and during warmups we’ll talk to each other and we’ll make jokes,” Rahim said. The interconnectedness in the team certainly helped the gymnasts improve on their skills and support one another during their training period.

In preparation for the finals, the team perfected their skills and the performances that they would display during the meets. “Right before championships, we had workouts at other schools, and it was five days, 9 to 1, four hours each day [...] improving [our] skills for the last competition,” Rahim said. The finals took place on March 5, and the Lemurs faced off against the Tottenville Pirates, Long Island City Bulldogs, and LaGuardia Lions. Though the team didn’t place first in any of the individual events, their overall meet total was clear of the other teams by a seven point margin. Thus, the Panthers were crowned the Boys Gymnastics PSAL Champions, with a season-breaking total score of 105.8 points.

Following the end of the season, the team members rejuvenated and recollected themselves in hopes to continue their championship hunt next year. However, the departure of the seniors following the championship win means a goodbye from the rest of the team. “I’ll miss all the seniors that are leaving this year, because they’re my top guys, and they’ve been a part of the team for four years.” Coach Autry said. Rahim looks back at his time with Stuyvesant gymnastics with pride, recalling how he’ll miss the special lifestyle of gymnastics. He explained, “I think [I’ll miss] the culture of gymnastics. It’s not like other sports where there is a lot of structure; in gymnastics, it’s very free flowing. You make your own routines, you learn whatever skills you want to learn next, you progress your own way and at different speeds from other people. I’ll really miss being there and working my body to its limits.”