by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School gymnastics team had a dominant 2016, with a bit of a twist at the end, according to coach Kaitlin Schultz.
“Last season was a unique season. We were undefeated in our league in our dual meets,” Schultz explained. “[But] because we were doing so well, the week before our league meet they moved us into the higher league.”
The Mounties suddenly found themselves competing at a higher level and though they performed admirably, they didn’t place in that meet.
“[It] was a little disappointing because we were kind of on a high. But we still maintained the best dual meet record [for the season].”
MHS will remain in that league, which is a challenge but not something that changes the coach’s high expectations.
“We’re kind of coming in as the lowest team in that league,” Schultz said, “but our returning girls have improved a lot in the offseason so I’m hoping that will give us a little bit more of a competitive edge.”
Regardless of which league the team competes in, they will be forced to travel long distances for away meets. The Mounties are the only high school team in Essex County, which means lots of trips up and down the Turnpike.
Luckily the team members enjoy one another’s company.
“We have about 31 girls on the roster this year,” Schultz said. They range from beginners to club athletes, and Schultz makes sure to cater to each athlete’s talents and abilities with individual workouts.
“Everyone has their own plan, and our goal is to make each girl better throughout the season,” Schultz said.
Only the top athletes compete in most dual meets, but there are also novice meets where less experienced gymnasts can compete as well so everyone has an opportunity to show their skill.
Last season, the team qualified for sectionals as a group for the fourth time, which means they had one of the six highest team scores in the entire conference in both leagues. The four years coincide with Schultz’s tenure as coach.
They had not made sectionals for the 15 years before she started coaching MHS, and they are determined to make it five in a row.
Four Mounties also qualified for sectionals for individual events, and Schultz is looking for more of the same this year.
It will be a little harder as last season’s top scorer, senior Emily Roberts, is injured and will be out for at least part of the season.
That leaves a core of four juniors and a freshman to hold the individual events — floor, vault, uneven bars and balance beam.
Victoria De La Rosa, Naja John, Mia Sinks, and Gabby Martin are the returning athletes and will be joined by Amelia Tuchman, who Schultz feels should be able to qualify on at least three events.
De La Rosa is the linchpin, having qualified on all four events for the last sectional. Schultz says she has improved by leaps and bounds this offseason, and should have an excellent year.
Schultz is also looking for strong performances from senior captains Taylor Milch and Lauryn King, who began her Mountie career not knowing any gymnastics. If Roberts can come back, she should factor in as well.
“I would like to see the girls improve from their last year scores, especially those who competed in the novice meets,” Schultz said. “It would be nice to get them into a regular-season meet as well.”