fb-pixel
HIGH SCHOOL GYMNASTICS

At Masconomet Regional, girls’ gymnasts team is a level above

Gracy Mowers trains at the Yellow Jackets Gymnastics Club in Middleton year-round.

But entering high school, she was determined to also compete for the girls’ gymnastics team at Masconomet Regional.

And to accomplish that goal, she knew that she would have to lobby those around her who might be leery of anything detouring her path to a college roster.

“I had to do a little convincing,” acknowledged the Masco junior, the Globe’s two-time Gymnast of the Year.

Mowers competes at Level 10, a level of talent that rarely makes it on to a high school mat.

The intense nature of club gymnastics, and the risk of injury due to the physical toll of demanding practices, even slightly improper technique, and subpar equipment, can make gymnastics clubs wary of letting their top athletes compete in high school.

Advertisement



The 16-year-old Mowers averages 22 hours per week practicing with her club during the school year, with an additional 4½ to 6 hours of practice — plus typically one meet per week — with Masconomet. Mowers said in the summer club gymnasts practice 24 hours per week, or more.

But with the backing of her mother, Jana (Reardon) Mowers — a 2014 inductee into the athletic hall of fame as a gymnast at the University of New Hampshire, who is also a coach with the Yellow Jackets — Gracy joined the Masco program as a freshman.

Last winter, as a sophomore, Mowers helped lead the Chieftains to their first MIAA championship.

“A lot of clubs won’t allow [dual participation],” Masconomet coach Alicia Gomes said.

“I think Gracy [doing high school] is one of the ones who has brought it back. Now there are more and more Level 10s doing high school. It shows you can do both. You just have to be smart about it.”

Advertisement



Gomes said that includes tailoring the high school regimen to allow for gymnasts whose bodies are already taking their share of pounding in practice.

“We always did [club/high school],” said Gomes, who starred at the University of New Hampshire after graduating from Beverly High in 1997.

“The biggest thing is injury. If kids are getting injured because they are doing it too much then that’s huge.”

Knowing the busy schedule that Mowers keeps, the Masconomet coaches have been flexible with her training. “There are days when they don’t push as much,” said Mowers, who has also committed to UNH. “I look at it as it is a lot of fun. Club gymnastics is a lot on your body and your brain. High school gymnastics is kind of a release.”

Sophomore Emma Quirk, the defending state champion on the balance beam, is also a Level 10 gymnast at Yellow Jackets. She joined the team at Masconomet after being home-schooled from fourth to eighth grade.

“Some of my friends from the gym said joining the team would be a great way to meet more people,” Quirk said. “Gymnastics was already something I was doing all the time. It turned out to be a great experience and something I am going to keep doing.”

Senior Catherine DiNanno, a two-year captain and reigning state champion in the floor exercise, had cut back on her club training due to injuries. For her, the atmosphere, and success, of the Masco program has been invigorating.

“I fell in love with high school gymnastics just like I fell in love with the sport when I was little,” said DiNanno, who has been a gymnast for 16 years.

Advertisement



For Masconomet, the combination of elite talent and team enthusiasm has been a recipe for success this winter once again.

The Chieftains, who edged Mansfield, 148.975-146.65 in last year’s MIAA final, racked up 149.4 points in their opening meet against Bishop Fenwick on Dec. 22. Through Sunday, Masco has scored at least 144 points with varying lineups in five straight wins.

“Being a defending state champion is a bit nerve-racking sometimes because we want to live up to our title and hopefully keep it up for this year,” DiNanno said.

“Winning States did give the team confidence, but we are still working hard in the gym. To defend our title all it takes is hard work, support, and determination, and Masco gymnastics has all of those aspects.”

Gomes said that dedication was clear through their offseason work, including how much Quirk has improved her floor and vault routines to complement her championship skill on the beam — often considered the sport’s most trying event.

“A lot of people stress out during it because it’s easy to fall off the beam,” Quirk said.

“But for me, it’s always been easier to focus and hone in on what I have to do in the routine while staying on it. We all try to keep positive, and not get too stressed out about the wins.”

Advertisement



Capable of scores like ones the Chieftains have put up the first month of the season, Mowers said it will come down to execution at Sectionals on Feb. 22 and States on Feb. 29 as they eye the repeat.

“We have the physical ability to do it,” Mowers said. “It’s a matter of whether we will be mentally focused enough. We’ll see how it goes. But so far, so good.”


Scott Souza can be reached at ScottSouza@journalist.com.