Coach Cunningham spots Hayden Sample on bars. Photo: Jill Rawls

While small, the girls gymnastics team is filled with talented athletes who anticipate a great season. The eight girls, seven of whom are veterans to the team, started training Jan. 8. “Coach really gets us into shape,” said sophomore Eve Kogon. “Even though sometimes I am so sore I can’t walk, it is all worth it when we see how much stronger we have gotten by the time of our first meet.” Even in the midst of pain and soreness after hard workouts, the team’s morale remains high as the girls are a close-knit group.

Physical education chairperson and head gymnastics coach Steve Cunningham has 38 years of experience working with Pace’s team, coaching the first varsity team in 1982. This year, he is excited by the team’s dynamic. “I really like the makeup of our team,” said Coach Cunningham. “The girls are a hard-working group but we also have fun at the same time.” Additionally, Coach Cunningham is pleased that this year marks the beginning of a new classification system, putting Pace in the A-5A division, meaning the team will no longer compete against the huge teams from 6A and 7A divisions.

Last year, sophomores Maggie Jenkins and Casey Shoulberg, along with junior Hayden Sample, qualified for the state preliminary meet by scoring at least an 8.5 out of 10 three times on an event. “It was amazing to get to see the top gymnasts in the region compete,” said Jenkins about her experience. “A lot of the girls there are club gymnasts, so they do some pretty crazy skills. We were proud of how we did, though.”

This year, Coach Cunningham and all the gymnasts hope that the team will qualify as a whole by finishing the regular season ranked as one of the top eight teams in the division. The team has a good shot at qualifying with the new dual classification system and the girls’ efforts.

The first competition isn’t until March 15, so the team members have plenty of time to prepare routines and practice their vault, bars, beam and floor exercises.


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