NPHS Student Gymnasts Soar to New Heights


Kalina Kornacki, staff writer

Gymnastics has always had a special place in my heart. When I was younger, I used to take classes at Indigo. Soon, I learned that I did not have the skill or drive to continue the sport. Then my brother tried out some classes. Unfortunately, he also did not have the drive to continue, and soon quit. However, my sister Ilana soon began taking classes at the Connection. She had the drive, the skills, and the attitude to be a gymnast. At the young age of 7, she tried out for the team. It has been 5 years since then, and I’ve been to many of her meets, increasingly becoming invested with the sport. It’s a popular sport, but it is constantly being overshadowed by other sports, like football, basketball, volleyball, and soccer.

On Friday, February 28, 2020, I had the opportunity to go to a home meet of some of the school’s gymnasts. Erin Orchard (Junior), Katharine Zimmermann (Junior), Danielle (Dani) Bloom (Sophomore), and Nora Kapp (Sophomore) are all gymnasts, competing on the Summit Summies team at the Connection in Summit, New Jersey. They compete at the USAIGC (United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs) level.

To be a gymnast, you have to put up with long, and hard, practices, usually after school. Depending on the level of gymnastics you are in, that determines how long your practices are, what skills you practice, and how you should be scored in competitions. All four New Providence gymnasts are Golds, meaning that they compete with some of the most difficult skills and practice longer than other gymnasts in the gym. 

Orchard states, “I practice for about 12 hours a week. I go in 4 days a week and each practice is about 3 hours give or take a little. We spend 30 minutes stretching and conditioning, and then go to one of the four events for 30 minutes.”

Bloom is more specific, saying how she practices on “Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 6-9, and then on Saturdays from 8-11.”

Sometimes these long practices can have an impact on the girls’ school and social lives. Long days at school and long days at gymnastics can lead to even longer nights as these girls try to complete their homework for the next day.

“Practice ends around nine o’clock at night, then we have to come home and shower and eat and do work. As a junior, I find myself up until 1 in the morning more often than I should” Orchard states.

Kapp and Bloom have each participated in school sports, which would also take away time from doing homework. Bloom participated on the girls volleyball team in the fall while Kapp participated in cheer. By doing these sports, the girls were able to acquire a sports study, which they say was a huge help with managing time and homework. 

Each of these girls has been practicing or have been participating in gymnastics at the Connection for a long time. Kapp says that she has been doing gymnastics for 8 years, and all those years she has been with the Connection. Orchard began when she was about ten years old, “which is considered very late in the gymnastics world. Most kids begin when they’re about four or five.”

During the actual practices and meets, every girl competes in 4 events: floor, bars, beam, and vault. Each event is complicated and beautiful in its own ways. 

Before the actual meet, the girls each have their own ways to get into the mood. 

Bloom says: “Before a meet, I make sure to think about the goals that I want to achieve while competing” and that she tends to feel “excited, but nervous at the same time.” Usually, music also helps one concentrate and that “music with faster beats makes [me] more excited and gives [me] more energy.”

While certain music helps someone get into a good feel, rituals before meets, as Orchard says, really helps her focus.

“It varies for each event, but for beam I have to be on the same side every time, and I have to chalk my hands and feet in a certain way. For vault I have to drag my foot across my starting point to the center of the runway, and I have to start with my left thumb crossed over my right thumb before I vault. These are small silly things, but if I don’t do them I feel out of place.“

Floor is the event that requires gymnasts to flip and dance on a floor made up of springs and/or a rubber foam and plywood combination, which makes the floor bouncy. This helps soften the impact of landings. Music without words is used in the extensive routine. That routine involves several poses, dance moves, and gymnastics skills. Each of the girls’ floor routines is done to a different song and has different levels of skill and poses that make them unique and fun to watch.

Bloom’s floor routine is done to the song “Malibu Sunset”, and has multiple skills intertwined with dance moves. Some of her skills include a front thru, round off, backhand spring, and back tuck, all at once. She also completes double turns, switch leaps with step leaps, front handsprings with front pikes, and round off straddle jumps. 

Kapp’s floor routine is done to the song “Shadows” and some of her skills include round off, back handspring, back tuck, also all at once. Some smaller, but still highly difficult skills are front tucks, wolf fulls, switch leaps, and spilt full. 

Orchard’s floor routine is executed to  “Resolve”, and some of her beautiful skills include a front thru, round off, backhand spring, back tuck (front tuck step out). Others skills are straddle, full jump, front handspring with a front pike, a roundoff back handspring back tuck, and a wolf full jump.

Zimmermann’s floor routine is performed to “In Da Mood”, and some of her incredible moves include a dive roll, layout 1 1/2 twist, 1/2 front tuck, a double turn, and (in one shot), she does a sashe switch leap, step leap. 

On the uneven bars, Bloom and Kapp have similar routines while Zimmermann and Orchard are similar. The bar is made of a steel frame. They are usually made of fiberglass with wood coating, or less commonly, wood. The girls’ routines are based off of their skill level on the Gold team. For example, their starting position, either behind the smaller bar or taller bar, can tell you how much skill a gymnast has. 

In Bloom and Kapp’s routine, they do a kip on the low bar, then a cast, free hip, a kip again, then a chinese sit up onto the high bar, another kip, cast, free hip and then a flyaway. The only difference between the girls’ routines is that Bloom only does a flyaway while Kapp does a flyaway 1/2.

In Zimmermann’s and Orchard’s routine, they jump from the ground onto the high bar, do a shoot over onto the low bar, then a kip, a chinese sit up, another kip, then a cast handstand onto the high bar, then two giants in a row, and then end with a flyaway. 

Beam is an extremely strenuous and difficult event for many girls. The beam is a small, thin beam of wood, which is typically raised from the floor on a leg or stand at both ends. The balance beam is only performed by female gymnasts and are usually covered with leather-like material. They are only 4 inches wide. This event does not require music and should be completed in 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Orchard states how beam is her favorite event because of “how graceful and sophisticated it looks.” To her, the skills on beam help others see the “strength and focus” of a gymnast. 

Bloom’s skills on beam include a leap and wolf jump, a Y-scale, a flutter jump sissone, front walkover  and back handspring, a tuck 3/4, and a full turn. Her dismount, which ends the beam routine, is a split jump with a back tuck off the beam. 

Kapp’s skills on beam include a front walkover and back handspring, a flutter jump and split jump, a leap tuck jump, a full turn, and a straight jump 3/4. Her dismount off the beam was the same as Bloom’s.

Orchard’s routine and skills include a back tuck and then another back tuck, a flutter jump and then a split quarter, then a switch leap followed by a wolf jump, a full turn, and then a tuck 3/4 jump. Her dismount was a gainer off the beam. 

Zimmermann’s routine and skills include a press handstand as she gets onto the beam, a front walkover round off (also known as a series), a tuck 3/4 jump, and a full turn. Her dismount was a switch leap, side gainer pike. 

A vault is a slightly-inclined, metal piece of equipment with a padded and springy cover. The girls usually run down a long runway of mesh and jump onto a spring board, placed directly before the vault. As they jump off the springboard, they use the vault to propel themselves into their extremely quick and small routine.

Bloom’s vault is a half onto the vault with a full off. 

Kapp’s vault is a half onto the vault with a half twist off. 

Orchard’s vault during the recent meet was a half onto the vault with a half twist off. However, she usually completes with a tsukahara, which is a half turn onto the vault with a backflip off. 

On this day, Zimmermann vaulted a tsukahara. 

Overall, all of the girls did very well. Bloom finished with a 32.150 and took 6th place overall. Kapp finished with a 30.800 and took 8th place overall. Orchard finished with a 33.700 and took 4th place overall. Zimmermann finished with 34.950 and took 1st place overall.

These girls performed with their heads high and their best skills forward. As they flipped, jumped and flew to victory, each one of them was very pleased with their performances, but were also ready to continue practicing. Bloom states how even though she did well, she needs “to practice harder at those specific things that [she] messed up on at the meet.”

With gymnastics growing in popularity, should New Providence begin a girls and boys gymnastics team? Other schools like Union and Summit have them, so should New Providence join the bandwagon? 

Zimmermann thinks that New Providence should have a gymnastics team because “many people would join and come to the meets ”.

However, Bloom is a bit more hesitant on the idea, stating “while it would be very fun, I like the separation of school and gymnastics.”

These gymnasts are strong, powerful, and intelligent students who deserve to be known and appreciated for all they do. Not everyone can be a gymnast and those who are, are truly incredible athletes.