The Lemurs: Champions Once More?
Issue 9, Volume 113
By Joseph Kim
The “championship hangover” is a well-documented phenomenon. All too often, a team reaches the pinnacle of their sport, only to witness their players experience a severe dropoff in performance during the following season. We all remember the historic falloffs of the 2002 Patriots, the 2014 Red Sox, and many more. With this in mind, all rival teams’ eyes are set on the defending PSAL gymnastics champions, the Lemurs, Stuyvesant’s boys’ team, and anticipating their downfall. However, the Lemurs are determined to not let that be the case and hope to achieve the same success as their record-breaking prior season and maintain their title as PSAL champions.
Under the guidance of Coach Marvin Autry, who has over 20 years of coaching experience, as well as senior captains Andrew Poon and Alif Rahman and junior captain Kohl Shepherd, the Lemurs are in good hands.
Rahman prides himself on being a mentor and leader. “It’s seeing the kid you were mentoring finally get the skill. [Our] main goal is to foster the development of the underclassmen in our team,” Rahman said when asked about what the most rewarding aspect of being a captain is.
Some gymnasts, such as sophomore Austin Liu, have seen significant growth in their vault and floor routines and achieved the back handspring after months of training. “Every day, [Liu] just spams the backspring and keeps getting better,” junior Chester Lam said.
With 16 members, the Lemurs boast the largest roster since their return from COVID-19 shutdowns. The Lemurs sport an upperclassman-heavy roster with over three quarters of the team being either a senior or junior. However, the vast majority of the team had minimal experience coming into this season, with just six returning members from the previous championship season. “We have a new group of kids who have never done gymnastics before and we’re trying to get them into the routine, and it’s tough getting them up to speed,” Autry said.
Nevertheless, Shepherd continues to have faith in his team. “I know what my team can do and I know what the other teams can do and I know what we need to do to do better than them,” Shepherd said. Shepherd maintains his confidence in his teammates, regardless of their inexperience. There’s no doubt in his mind that the Lemurs can be the best team in the PSAL as long as they stay dedicated.
Regardless of Shepherd’s faith, the inexperience of the team generated doubts about whether or not the Lemurs would be able to maintain their City Championship title. “I was pretty unsure if we were gonna be able to hold our PSAL champions title after last year’s captains graduated,” Rahman said. However, these doubts were erased after the Lemurs finished in second place at their first meet, which featured talented competition from schools such as LaGuardia, Tottenville, and Long Island City. “There were definitely some rough spots, but overall the new kids handled it pretty well and almost everyone got to compete,” Shepherd said. Poon finished with a score of 8.1 points on the vault event, the highest of 20 other competitors. Rahman also managed a score of 4.5 points on the pommel horse event, the fourth-highest score posted on the event at the meet. Despite their best efforts, the Lemurs were unable to come out on top, falling just half a point shy of securing first. Though the outcome wasn’t what they hoped for, this early performance gave them much needed confidence going forward and proved that they could compete with the best. With this renewed confidence, the Lemurs set their sights on their next meet at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, a long-time division rival, with hopes of an even stronger performance.
The Lemurs go into practice every day with the intention of fine-tuning their routines and constantly improving. Members of the team described their dedication to the sport as “borderline obsessive” as they meticulously perform each skill. “We practice more than any other team in the league, and even though we may not have the most strength or flexibility, we work hard and play smart. I think that we have the ability to win two years in a row, even having lost two of our best guys, because of the amount of work we put in,” Shepherd said.
Hours of devotion to specific strength moves such as press handstands and V-sits, as well as to events such as parallel bars, pommel horse, and floor routine, have paid off. “Kids who’ve never done gymnastics in their life are getting front and back handsprings,” Autry said.
The value of each repetition has become more apparent than ever before due to the Lemurs sharing the same facilities in the third floor gym’s extension with the Felines, Stuyvesant’s girls’ gymnastics team. While questions of overcrowding have surfaced, both teams have been able to overcome these issues by alternating equipment with each other. “For example, we set up uneven bars [for] women's gymnastics events one day and the next day we set up high bars [for] men’s gymnastics events,” Lam said.
Though some may believe that this dynamic is stunting their development, the Lemurs see it as an opportunity to improve. The Lemurs and Felines have fostered a symbiotic relationship, advising each other on their routines and spotting one another. Practicing on women’s event equipment such as the uneven bars has allowed the Lemurs to expand their ever growing arsenal of skills and keep practices feeling fresh. “We kind of use each other's events to practice for our own event,” Lam said.
In addition, these joint-practices have fostered a real bond between the two teams as they work side-by-side with the same goal in mind. “I've seen a couple of guys who are close with the girls. The underclassmen, especially, this year are all super close,” Lam said.
With expectations as high as they are, anything short of a stellar post-season performance would be a debacle. As the Lemurs head into the latter half of their season with dreams of obtaining yet another PSAL Championship banner, they continue to improve and perfect their routines. “With how hard we’ve worked, I think we have a real chance at a championship,” said Autry.