FRANKLIN — The numbers for MIAA boys’ gymnastics teams statewide has been dwindling for years.
Just four teams (and 45 total athletes), including the Newton North/Newton South co-op, competed for the 2021 state championship last February, with host Burlington marking its 50th appearance in the final with the title.
But at the moment, Burlington will not field a boys’ team this winter, athletic director Shaun Hart confirmed in a call to the gymnastics committee Wednesday morning. Lowell coach Jesse Raschak said he is waiting to hear the status of his team but AD Dave Lezinski said that if a boy wants to compete in gymnastics this winter for the school, all options will be pursued. That leaves just Braintree and Newton.
That’s a bleak future, a fact that prompted committee members to consider options going forward, such as opportunities for boys competing on an individual level.
Several committee members championed a proposal for an individual championship meet for boys at the end of the winter season — not only for boys who competed on their own team, but also boys who were part of co-ed teams with girls.
“What if they compete not for schools, as individuals?” asked Ashley Paulson, the assistant girls’ coach at Framingham, which has one boy on her team. “That’s done in girls’ gymnastics; why not boys?”
Without an individual state meet for boys, those who are a member of co-ed teams have been competing as individuals in the girls’ meets — and in several cases, winning.
“Can it mirror cheer or swim, sports that have co-ed options, because we have boys that are going to girls’ individual meets and they’re winning,” said Paula Chausse, AD at Dracut High.
“We want to provide more opportunities. Not that the state meet isn’t a great event, it’s just very small [for boys]. It’s continuing to decline.”
A subcommittee will form and gather to further identify the proposal of an individual meet at the end of the season for boys, along with tournament directors.
“We should embrace the individuals at this point,” said Braintree boys’ gymnastics coach Rich Ellis.
For many years, the MIAA has stressed recognizing gymnastics teams, instead of individual gymnasts. In response, the coaches association hosts a state girls’ individual meet, regardless of their team’s results. Gymnasts from both sectional-bound teams and eliminated teams participate, and invites are made to schools in Western Mass., which has a fall season. The event also often includes boys who compete on girls gymnastics squads.
Including the displaced boys’ gymnastics teams in the state individual meet would be an added burden to the coaches association.
Including a de facto boys’ state championship meet into the existing event might be the only way to keep boys’ gymnastics alive, but it will also max out an event that is already stretched thin.
▪ The issue arose of having gymnastics equipment available at individual schools, or at a school-sanctioned private gymnasium.
▪ Hudson AD Jessica Winders noted the issue of potentially needing to add another coach on staff whose focus would be coaching boys rather than both boys and girls.
▪ MIAA officials’ rep Kathy Ostberg was elected as committee chair, with Stephen Cudsworth, coach of the Bridgewater-Raynham/West Bridgewater co-op, vice chair and Chausse serving as secretary.
▪ A new NFHS uniform modification was also announced, which states that gymnasts are allowed to wear shorts during competition — provided there is no more than one manufacturer’s logo visible on the shorts, which must be no more than 2¼ inches in length. A violation would result in a deduction in the competitor’s score.
▪ No change was made to gymnastics alignments, with Western Mass. continuing to host its own tournament in the fall season.
▪ The winter sectional and state championships will be held on Feb. 25 and March 4 at Algonquin Regional in Northborough.
Correspondent Kat Cornetta contributed to this story.