By Staff Writer Arpita Gaggar
The MSJ Gymnastics team claimed another victory at the second meet of the year, facing off against longtime rival James Logan High School. The competition took place on Thursday, October 12 at Washington High School’s gym. The final score for MSJ was 131.25 points, narrowly beating Logan’s score of 128.90 points.
Seven girls competed, five on the Varsity team and two in the Varsity Elite division. The first event that MSJ competed in was vault. Juniors Alison Chan, Katie Pan, and Diane Shan, and Captain Senior Zarine Kakalia placed at the Varsity level, earning 7.80, 7.60, 7.50, and 7.10 points, respectively. The Varsity Elite competitors Sophomore Natalie Lai and Captain Senior Sabrina Shih won second and third place in their division, with scores of 8.00 and 7.90. The MSJ gymnasts performed similarly well in the second event, bars, as did Logan’s gymnasts. Both teams cleanly executed skills, soaring through the air gracefully in a way that made the moves seem effortless. Each gymnast performed her individual routine as the judges looked on and scored her. Notably, Shan won third place in Varsity and Lai won first place in Varsity Elite.
The competition continued on to the floor routines. The team was clearly prepared with their well-practiced routines, featuring stunts such as aerials, roundoffs, and walkovers. Their expertly executed skills combined with fast-paced music created a stunning visual and auditory show for the audience. The excited crowd applauded after each performance. Coach Fatima Ijaz said, “As a coach, watching them compete on floor was the best part. We’ve spent a lot of time on floor and you could see that in their performances. I’m only one person, so I wasn’t able to coach a group of girls across the gym. So I gave the girls routines to learn and practice by themselves, and I was surprised that they actually got it done without my help. That was something really recognizable that they did to prepare for the meet today.” Junior Samantha Wang’s beautiful floor routine earned her a score of 8.80 and first place, and Pan placed in third with 8.40 points. In Varsity Elite, Shih and Lai scored extraordinarily well, receiving 9.30 and 8.70 points to round out second and third place.
The team finished the meet with their beam routines, which they hope to improve throughout the season. One of the team’s goals is to practice more on beam so that they feel more confident during competitions. Despite a few falls, they still continued their winning streak, placing four athletes in the top six places of Varsity, and winning first and third place in Varsity Elite. As Shih said, “There’s hardly any podium where we don’t see at least one MSJ girl up on there.”
The team has a long history of performing very well at MVALs, and believes that they are well on the way to continuing the tradition. Co-captains Kakalia and Shih said, “We were MVAL champions in 2015, when we had a large team of about 30 gymnasts. Since then, a lot of our seniors have graduated, so we’re slowly rebuilding our team.” The captains believe that the small size of their team has helped improve the team’s chemistry and facilitate better teamwork. “Since it’s a small group of girls, we’re able to know each other really well and be really supportive, and watch each other’s progress. I think that’s one of our team’s main strengths…When we’re doing our routines, we always know which person has a mat and where they need it and when we need to pull it out,” said Kakalia. Thursday’s meet was evidence of the MSJ Gymnastics team’s talent, despite their small numbers. Coach Ijaz says that “They’re a strong seven, and each girl has her own unique personality that shines through at meets.”
Photo by Staff Writer Arpita Gaggar