Although it may be small in numbers, the Whitman-Hanson Regional High gymnastics team, which is in its second year, has abundant talent in the areas that matter.
In its first meet of the season on Dec. 19 against Hingham, Marshfield and Pembroke/Silver Lake, W-H was out-numbered by anywhere from eight to nearly 20 girls per team. On the bars and vault, the Panthers only put up five participants out of a possible six, however that didn’t faze them at all, as they ended the night with a meet-high score of 125.1.
The performance gave W-H its first three wins of the season, after finishing last winter at 3-11. Second-year head coach Rachel Sferruzza said it’s certainly a balancing act at times deciding who to send out there, but it doesn’t hinder her team as much as one might think, in fact, it works in its favor more times than not.
“It does help play to advantages where everyone feels included,” Sferruzza said. “I can get everyone up on an event, I can switch some people in and out. We do have enough people where we can switch a few in and out this year, which we didn’t have a lot of that flexibility last year, but in a way, I think it helps. No one is fighting for a spot, everyone is gonna have a spot, so in that way it’s great it keeps a nice even keel, but in other ways it can stress things out because you have to be good, you have to get your routine, you feel like you you’re being depended on.”
While the number of participants, which is up slightly from last season, is out of the club’s control, Sferruzza, who was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year for 201617, said she believes one of her team’s biggest strengths is something it does have say over – its attitude.
“What I think helps the growth is that the team is a bunch of really positive, good girls,” Sferruzza said. “It doesn’t have to be girls, it could be guys too, but everyone is really positive and everyone really cheers for each other and they want each other to do well. It’s a very welcoming program and everyone is very approachable.”Sferruzza said she feels like she’s more than just the head coach of the team. “I like to think that I’m very approachable and they think of me as a good role model,” she said. “The big sister, someone fun that they can talk to and then they can put any stresses or worries away and bring their positive attitudes into the gym and use that to help them perform their best.”
Sferruzza acknowledged that being the only coach of 14 girls can be a bit of a daunting task, but her two senior captains – Kaileigh Gordon and Kaylee Torpey – make her job a whole lot easier.
“Kaileigh and Kaylee are really great,” Sferruzza said. “They’re both incredible, talented gymnastics [and] they’re both very organized, they’re very bright girls which helps. They’re able to lead the team whether it’s warm-ups, whether its setting up things like fundraising or fun activities like Secret Santa. “But, then when they’re here I can turn to them for anything. If I need them to do administrative work, management, I can do that if I need them to collect the group. So, the girls look at them and they listen to them.”
Along with Gordon and Torpey, Patriot League All-Star on the bars last season -sophomore Sarah Bombardier – will also give W-H a boost this season.
“She does all-around for us and is solid in every meet,” Sferruzza said. “She’s very experienced. She’s able to stay really focused during the meets.”
In the opener, Bombardier notched a 30.35 all-around score, second on the team to senior newcomer Britney Blackstone, who boasted a 34.7. Blackstone, despite being a first-year Panther, is no stranger to gymnastics having competed on a club team.
“She came here with a lot of experience in high-level meets and brought a lot of high-level skills,” Sferruzza said.
W-H will be back in action Friday, Jan. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Massachusetts Gymnastics Center in Pembroke.