With Team Finals Approaching, Felines on Bronx Science’s Tail

Gymnastics Flip
Photo by Lucy Lu

After a loss by barely one point against Bronx Science earlier in the season, the Felines, Stuyvesant’s girls’ gymnastics team, faced their rivals in their last regular season meet on Friday, January 27, at the end of finals week.

At this meet, however, the team’s goal was not to win. Having already qualified for the Team Championships, the team used this last meet as a chance to give less-experienced gymnasts who hadn’t competed as often during the season a time to perform.

Sophomores Xinyue Nam and Veronika Starodubets both competed on vault and floor, with Starodubets performing a beautiful routine that earned her a 6.80 and a spot at the Individual Championships. Freshman Kelsey Xu performed on balance beam, earning an admirable 6.40 with an entirely stuck routine.

Beam was a highlight for the team, which usually struggles with falls. “[Senior and co-captain] Julia Ingram did really well as she didn’t fall at all on beam, and she got her highest score,” sophomore Lee-Ann Rushlow said.

The team’s final score was a 103.65 to Bronx Science’s 109.25. Still, it was a solid score considering the line-up was filled with rookies and senior and co-captain Grace Stempel, a top scorer of the team, only competed in one event .

A closer match-up between Stuyvesant and Bronx Science occurred at the annual Marilyn Cross Invitational, where the Felines won second place in the Manhattan/Bronx Division behind Bronx Science.

“Bronx Science [is] led by the best gymnast in the city, so even though the Felines have more depth, we have to be perfect to beat them,” Stempel said.

But the day—the snowiest this season—held complications. “We took a couple falls on beam, and one of our best all-arounders was sick, so we definitely have room to improve for team finals,” Stempel said.

There were highlights of the day, however. “[Senior and co-captain Sonia Epstein’s] beam routine was very solid, and [Stempel] was amazing on floor. [Stempel] did a back handspring on beam, too,” junior Anna Pacheco said.

Aside from the divisional meet, the Felines have competed in six other regular meets this season, winning three of them. “Other than Bronx Science, we don’t really have a lot of competition in our league,” Stempel said.

The portion of the team who normally do not compete are becoming more involved and experienced during meets. “The past two weeks, we have had a lot of underclassmen step up and compete, which is always nice to see,” Stempel said.

“A lot of people who don’t usually compete competed, like [sophomore Florence Luo] and [Xu] on beam and bars and [junior] Joey [Chen] and [freshman] Lucy [Lu] on floor,” Pacheco said. This helps other members of the team understand the feeling of competing, so in future seasons they will contribute even more significantly to the team.

“The more experience they get under pressure, the better,” Stempel said.

Looking ahead, the Felines hope to achieve success by fixing the few things that are giving them trouble. “I want to see everyone improve their form: straighter legs, pointed toes, no wobbles on beam. We give away a lot of unnecessary points that can be fixed with just a little focus,” Stempel said.

“In a sport like gymnastics, and as we have learned the hard way, 0.075 can be the difference between first and second place,” Stempel said, referring to last year’s divisional meet, where the Felines trailed Bronx Science by 0.075.

With these fixes, they hope to beat their rivals and place in the top three at team finals. “We want to beat Bronx Science, who [have] always beat us by one or two points [this season],” Pacheco said.

“It’s not going to be easy, but I have faith that our team will keep improving and hit when it counts at team finals,” Stempel said.

Team Finals are scheduled for February 15 this year, a later date than usual that will test the team’s endurance. “The team will be practicing seriously for the next couple weeks, but considering that we got a decently high team score while using our star player just once [at the meet on January 27], I’m confident that we will do well at finals,” Rushlow said.

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