Framing the Burlington High School gymnasium are blue and white banners celebrating state championships earned by athletes at BHS. The boys gymnastics team won in the years 1976-1977, 1979-1980, and 1980-1981. The girls topped that by conquering the state titles during 1976-1977, 1977-1978, 1979-1980, and 1997-1998.
However, Burlington’s gymnastics program ended in 1996 when a group of six talented seniors graduated with no one to continue their legacy.
“A guy came in in 1998 and there wasn’t any interest. Now there are students who compete as individual athletes for other schools or participate in clubs, but there are not enough gymnasts to field a BHS team, said BHS Athletic Director, Jeanne Hulsen.
Sophomore Bridget Haggerty has loved gymnastics since she was two or three years old when she followed her sister, Sarah, into the sport. Haggerty qualified for the Green Mountain Training Center (GMTC) competition team during the summer between fourth and fifth grade.
GMTC uses a nationwide training and competition program called Excel. The Excel program offers an alternative organization, aside from the junior olympic track, that supports gymnastics. Over time Haggerty has risen to reach the Excel Diamond level, the highest of the five Excel program categories.
“Gymnastics is just stupid to some people. To some people it’s like oh, they’re probably not as strong as basketball and not as important as football.”-Bridget Haggerty
A gymnastics competition usually includes four events for women: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor – and six for men – floor, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bars. At such a high rank, Haggerty puts a lot of time into gymnastics.
“ [I practice] Sunday from 2:30-6:30, Monday from 4:30-8:30, Wednesday from 4:30-8:30, and then Friday from 3:30-6:30,” Haggerty said.
Haggerty also trains with Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU) during the highschool season in the Fall. CVU practices two hours every day but Haggerty and some of her teammates only attend on their days off from GMTC.
“It was easier to join CVU because I know the coaches and the girls,” Haggerty said.
She enjoys hanging out with the team and mentioned that on Friday they will often do team bonding exercises for fun. “Gymnastics is a lot of team building and it creates a lot of self confidence,” Haggerty added.
Haggerty is still somewhat frustrated with the situation at BHS. “It’s kinda of annoying, [I’ve] gotta be real because Gymnastics is just stupid to some people. To some people it’s like oh, they’re probably not as strong as basketball and not as important as football,” she said.
In addition, BHS does not support independent athletes monetarily. Haggerty pays for all her highschool competition entrance fees on her own.
Isabel Raymond, a junior at BHS, competed for the Club Regal but stopped her career at the end of last summer. Raymond had an injury when she was 14 that impacted this decision.
“I broke my back. I had a stress fracture from gymnastics,” Raymond said.
In order to recover she wore a back brace for 4 months. After this grueling break she continued the sport for a couple more months but eventually decided to stop.
Haggerty also suffered lower back damage this September. She woke up and couldn’t move because she was in so much pain. The doctors said she injured her lumbar spine and Haggerty went to a lot of PT to help the healing process. She is still using her back carefully for activities.
Amelia Curry, a freshman at BHS this year, finished with the sport last April. She loved her team but said the environment became harmful.
“I remember the team was the greatest thing. They were all wonderful people…[however] the sort of image in gymnastics, how it’s really important to look a certain way and have certain talents I think was getting to me.”
Raymond had a positive experience with her teammates before she left as well. “It’s fun you have friends and you get exercise,” She said.