The heart of NOSSA gymnastics lies in the lower levels
by Randy Pascal
The performances of the Level 5 and 6 gymnasts at the NOSSA championships were sure to captivate the crowd, as they always do – but the heart of
the event clearly lies with the glut of athletes in Levels 1, 2 and 3.
It's that large grouping of girls who cannot draw on years of competitive training that most represents the very essence of the meet that was hosted
Monday at the GymZone.
Girls like Vanessa Girard, a 14 year old grade nine student at Confederation Secondary. A recreational gymnast since the age of three who
never got around to competing, the graduate of Valley View Elementary easily identified the stream of gymnastics which has most piqued her
“The floor routine is definitely the most fun to make,” she said. “There are basic rules, like you have to have one tumbling line forwards and one
backwards, and you have to have a leap line and a full turn. But you get to pick your music, and you get to pick the order that you want to go, and all of
the little dances and poses. It's more artsy.”
“For bars, beam and vault, you are mostly given what you need to do.”
Easy to understand why this Level 2 competitor is attracted to the range of artistic interpretation that her floor routine allows, including the choice
of the music that accompanies her movements on the mat. “I went with “There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back”, because I like Shawn Mendes a lot,”
she said. “It's a fun song to dance along to.”
“I'm not really the most dramatic dancer. I just like getting to the point, so faster music is better for me.”
Cassandre McGuire of Collège Notre-Dame takes that dance connection to a whole other level. Just completing her second year at CND, she
would follow in the footsteps of older sister Gabrielle, competing on the dance circuit in her youth, but making the leap over to gymnastics only
when it came time for the high-school offering of the sport.
Even as she reflected on a very successful showing on Monday, both elements of her athletic pursuits were front and centre. “I just came back from a
dance competition (in Niagara Falls), and we did super good at that event,” said McGuire. “That really helped, just knowing that I did it there, and knowing
that I could do it here.”
If the lure of pop music most influenced Vanessa Girard, her fellow Level 2 competitor with the Alouettes found her musical motivation much closer to
home. “I picked the same music, the same routine that my sister did,” said McGuire. “It's mostly because we move the same, we work the same, so I knew it
would work for me.”
Lockerby Composite freshman Kylie Baxter is also no stranger to the gym. Introduced to gymnastics at the age of three, she eventually
dropped out, but rejoined via the competitive trampoline stream this year. “The thing that is the same in both trampoline and gymnastics is that you need a
lot of strength to be able to push yourself up and out, and be comfortable doing flips, all at the same time,” said Baxter.
“That's where trampoline and floor routines are kind of similar. You have to be confident to do the flips. You have to be straight, you have to be tight,
you have to have your toes pointed out, all of that kind of stuff,” added the 15 year old Level 2 gymnast.
With her grouping completely through their stations by the time early afternoon arrived, Baxter could contemplate on a very solid effort in her first
ever high-school meet. “Generally, I struggle a lot with bars,” she said. “I wasn't able to do a pullover or anything, really. This time, I managed to do
the entire routine by myself, so that made me pretty happy.”
Janie Goudreau can appreciate the efforts of those who do not benefit from the experience of competitive meets. A grade 10 student at Ecole
secondaire catholique Champlain, Goudreau grew up on a steady diet of workouts and meets as a competitive gymnast with Extreme North Gymnastics.
A Level 5 athlete for NOSSA purposes, the 15 year old has taken on some key responsibilities with her school team this year.
“At high-school, you're with some girls who have never done gymnastics,” she explained. “You get to be the one who helps them with their skills and
stuff. The girl I am coaching today did gymnastics when she was a lot younger, but doesn't remember anything. This is her first competition since six years
It's all part of the process of Goudreau throwing herself full tilt into the high-school experience in Chelmsford, foregoing the rigid schedule of her
childhood passion in the process. “I still loved gymnastics, but I wanted to do more school sports – volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, track,” she said,
explaining the decision to back away from the club crew.
“Doing competitive gymnastics doesn't give you a whole lot of time in the world to do that.”
Full NOSSA results to follow.