by Andrew Garda
As the Montclair High School gymnastics team begins to wrap up its season, head coach Lauren Kruse feels it has been a very successful one, regardless of record.
Kruse, who used to work with former Mounties coach Kaitlin Schultz, was hired this past offseason when the previous coach, Amie Bassarab, chose not to return.
“They asked me if I wanted to come in,” Kruse said before a recent home meet against Holy Angels. “I thought it was a great opportunity to work with so many student-athletes of different backgrounds in gymnastics, versus just the club aspect of it.”
While it was their second new coach in two years, Kruse said the team had no problem rolling with the change.
“The girls on the team as a whole adapted really well to the new assistant coach and myself,” Kruse said. “Everyone was really, really helpful in getting us into the building and acquainting us with all the equipment. So it was an easy transition.”
The team has had an influx of new athletes as well. Kruse said they gained not only five freshmen, but several sophomores who came out for the first time, including the only boy on the team, Ethan Savitch.
“He just joined and he’s doing really well. He found his team, and he’s happy.”
To Kruse, the influx of new faces is very exciting, no matter the level of their skill.
“That’s why I think this sport is great,” she explained. “Because we have some kids who are just starting in gymnastics and then we have some who are in club gymnastics, so they want to continue and we also have some who stopped club gymnastics but who still want to do the sport. I feel like we have a good group on the team from all over, from different backgrounds, and we all help each other and pick each other up.”
That’s been especially true for her three seniors, captain Sydney Hosier, Noa Gross and Gabriella McLoughlin. They’ve all stepped up and worked to make the newcomers feel like family.
They, along with the other veteran gymnasts on the squad also helped with training and working through routines with the other members of the team.
“I know making up a floor routines is one of the hardest challenges that you have, because it has to be a certain time length and you have certain requirements,” Kruse said. “So a lot of the girls have been helpful in teaching the younger kids different floor routines that they’ve used throughout the years. They’ve been helping each other with what kind of jumps go where and stuff like that, too.”
Meanwhile, on Oct. 4 against Mount Olive, Hosier competed in the all-around for the first time, entering all four events (vault, floor exercise, uneven bars and balance beam), which Kruse said was a big goal for her this year.
Setting and meeting goals like that are a big part of what the Montclair gymnastics program is about. Far more than wins and losses, Kruse just wants to see her athletes be the best they can be.
“It’s really great to watch all the kids on their own events, progress in their own way” she said. “For some kids on this team, it’s just being able to a roll, where other kids it’s being able to do a full-on floor [routine]. We’re all at different places in our gymnastics career.”
No matter the level or the result, Kruse said this team is always cheering each other on.
The Mounties have won two matches this season, and reached a season-high point total of 98 in their loss to Summit last Thursday, Oct. 10, led by 33.8 points from Amelia Tuchmann.
“Everyone is really supportive and cheering everyone on. It’s great to watch someone get a pullover on bars and [people] still cheer like it was the greatest thing ever.”
With so many different levels of skill and interest, Kruse said her request for offseason work come down to one thing: do anything.
“I encourage them all to be involved in something,” she said. “Whether it’s a different sport or just working out for a healthy lifestyle, or whether it’s attending club gymnastics. Just something to keep them busy and keep them involved in sports. That’s the main thing because being involved in different sports helps you.”
Kruse said that gymnastics helps kids in other sports and those sports also feed back into their gymnastic ability.
“Gymnastics is a very interdisciplinary sport where having a good cardio, and flexibility and all those things, they can come from so many different aspects. So, I want them to be active and obviously do well in school.”