Felines Bounce Back After Shaky Start

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The Felines, Stuyvesant’s girls’ gymnastics team, headed into the winter break on a high note following wins over Dewitt Clinton at home and away against John F. Kennedy Campus. These two wins righted the ship after a difficult loss to Bronx Science earlier in the season.

The meet against Dewitt Clinton was not nearly as competitive as the rival game against Bronx Science, so the Felines’ lineup was shuffled to give those who didn’t compete against Bronx Science a chance to perform. Senior and co-captain Lee-Ann Rushlow did not feature in every event, and one of the stars of the Bronx Science meet, freshman Agatha Nyarko, did not start the meet, opting to give some other players more of a run. Senior and co-captain Xinyue Nam performed in her first meet of the season after taking a back seat for the rival game against Bronx Science, excelling in the uneven parallel bars, floor exercise, and vaulting.

Nyarko and Rushlow reappeared in the lineup against Kennedy, however, and both picked up where they left off and performed well for the Felines. The meet also saw junior Theresa Teng start for the first time this season on the balance beam.

Nam in particular had a standout performance against Kennedy. She scored a 7.3 in the vault and a 6.2 in the floor exercises, both personal bests. After joining the Felines as a freshman, Nam worked her way up the ranks and rose to the top as a senior and now holds one of the captaincies. During her first three years on the team, Nam focused mostly on the vault. She participated in only one non-vault event, the floor exercise, in the 2016-2017 season. However, this season, Nam has branched out and performed in the floor exercise, vault, and uneven parallel bars to help counter a problem the Felines have with the bars. She wants to ride this recent wave of success. “I’m just hoping I can get more skills, as I came onto the team freshman year [without] having done gymnastics before,” Nam said.

For the Felines’ captains, there is a range of different areas they are hoping to improve in. A focus is getting the team’s overall score up by maximizing practices and making sure everything is refined and clean. The bar in particular has been a weak spot for the team, but to counteract this, members are working to remain tight and clean throughout the event. According to Nam, this still might not be enough. Judges tend to grade harshly on this event, requiring the participants to have very clean and complex skills such as flyaways (a type of dismount). This poses problems because “bars aren’t something people can work on every day because we’re sharing the gym with [the] guys, and they have to use the space [as well] to work on their own events,” Name said. However, the team makes the most of the space allotted.

Additionally, members of the team also participate in an outside club. PSAL guidelines for routines and club guidelines are different. This requires extra work because the team needs to make sure that all the routines are adjusted according to PSAL restrictions.

Nam hopes that this year, the Felines can beat Bronx Science’s team. With the score difference constantly hovering around a marginal difference of 0.075, a subtle tweak can be all it takes. “[If] all our practices can be more productive, we really have a chance at ranking higher with the current members, who have good work ethic and experience,” senior and co-captain Oliva He said. For her personally, she said that she wanted to “perfect [her] skills to improve [her] score” in her floor routine. As a dancer, she has grown “up doing styles like ballet, contemporary, jazz, and tap. The first two have strengthened [her] legs immensely as well as ingrained in [her] mind ‘straight legs and pointed toes,’ which are also very important in gymnastics.”

She transfers all these skills into specific skills like her “jumps and turns […and] performance with floor routines,” coach Vasken Choubaralian said.

Looking to the future, Choubaralian is hoping to improve the team’s overall scoring at the divisional meet on January 5. Every team from the Felines’ division, Bronx/Manhattan, will be competing against one another. At this event, he stated that the “best kids on the team [compete, and I am hoping for an improvement off] the score from Bronx Science, which was a 106.” He’s hoping to improve on Nyarko’s scores, specifically in the vault, bars, and beam events. Furthermore, he’s hoping to have more new members start, specifically, some of the returning underclassmen like sophomore Tiffany Cai. “[Cai has] really improved from last time; last meet she did much better on the floor,” Choubaralian said. He hopes to eventually get everyone competing in meets or at least give them the opportunity to compete for the first time.

With the Felines on an upward trend, it’s up to the team to continue to take advantage of their practices and future meets. For now, after two solid victories, the team is off to a solid start.