Kimi ’13 tumbles into a back handspring, arching her back towards the looming mats below. She then transitions into a dive cartwheel and ends with a round off, demonstrating a few of the skills she acquired at the All Olympian Gymnastics Club (AOGC) when she was eight.
Beginning second semester, ninth through twelfth graders will have the opportunity to join a gymnastics P.E. elective taught by Physical Education Department Head and Gymnastics Club advisor Julie Napoleon. Napoleon has been teaching or coaching gymnastics for 38 total years, 20 of which have been at Marlborough. She said the class will cater to all levels of experience and allow girls to improve their individual skills. Currently, there are two eleventh graders and seven ninth graders signed up for the second semester class. Smith said she is excited for the elective and hopes she can have fun while also improving her flexibility.
“My favorite part of gymnastics is tumbling. I like the feeling of flipping upside down. Knowing that I have the ability to throw my body backwards makes me feel special,” Kimi said.
Competitive lyrical jazz and ballet dancer Maddie ’15 said that she wants to work on front and back handsprings and therefore hopes the class is organized differently than the gymnastics P.E. class offered in Middle School.
“I want the class to help us work on our gymnastic skills. I hope the elective isn’t very assignment-oriented, to give us the freedom to work on what we want to improve,” Maddie said.
Janette ’13 said she is considering signing up but hasn’t practiced gymnastics since 8th Grade.
“I tried to do a one-handed cartwheel the other day and couldn’t. I hope when I join the class I’ll get back some of the skills I lost,” Janette said.
Marlborough had a Varsity Gymnastics team until 2002, when the program was cancelled due to the rising expense of proper gym space, waning interest among students and teams being eliminated at numerous other schools.Under the leadership of Napoleon, the team won the CIF Southern Section Division III Championship in 1985 and the CIF Championship in 1995 and later traveled to Europe twice to compete.
When Napoleon herself was in high school, girls rarely participated in athletics because Title IX, a law requiring gender equality in all school activities, had not yet been passed. Napoleon’s passion for gymnastics shone, however, as she participated in classes and clinics outside of school to stay involved.
Associate Director of Alumnae Relations Lauren Fritzinger ’87 was on the 1985 CIF team and said the invaluable lessons she learned from “Ms. Mac” (Napoleon is her married name) made gymnastics one of her most rewarding experiences at Marlborough.
“Gymnastics [teaches] you self-discipline, confidence, teamwork and the ability to believe in yourself. It can be terrifying but also kind of exhilarating,” Fritzinger said.
If any Violet wants to feel that exhilaration and contort her body on vaults, beams, uneven bars or the floor, be sure to take advantage of this new opportunity.