FDR gymnastics team ready for flight

The FDR gymnastics team enters the 2014 season hoping to improve a program that, despite struggles on the mat, has grown in numbers and support in recent years.

“We are working hard every day, and I see improvements every day from our girls,” head coach Yvonne Coughlin told the Observer. “Last year was tough, but we are striving to get better.”

Competing in Section 9, the Presidents went 0-6 last season, struggling against such top gymnastics schools as Kingston High School and New Paltz High School. Many of the gymnasts at those schools compete year-round, an advantage that FDR has not always had with its own gymnasts.

Coughlin also added that inexperience contributed to some of the team’s struggles, as FDR’s roster featured many underclassmen and only graduated two seniors. This year, FDR will rely on underclassmen who now have a season’s worth of experience.

Junior Samantha Ahern, who competed in the all-around event in the sectional meet last season, returns, as do sophomores Amanda Mittermaier, Ally Bertolozzi, and Olivia Tissot.

However, injuries have struck the Presidents already. Mittermaier sprained her ankle during a recent club meet, and Tissot hurt her back around the same time. There is no timetable for when either will return.

“Those injuries could hurt us, but we have a lot of depth, something we haven’t had before,” Coughlin said. “We have 20 girls total, including eight seventh graders, several of which could make an impact for us this season.”

In addition to New Paltz and Kingston, FDR will also compete against Wallkill and new member Rondout Valley in Section 9. The Presidents will continue to face top competition, as Coughlin notes that many of the other schools also return many of their gymnasts.

But tough competition remains better than no competition at all. Despite an increase in participation at FDR, several schools that once competed in Section 9 have dropped their gymnastics programs entirely.

But with the numbers growing and several current gymnasts competing for club teams in the offseason, Coughlin feels that a bright future exists for the Presidents.

“It is not just about winning; it’s about keeping our sport alive in our section,” Coughlin said. “We are very proud of the progress we are making. The girls have worked very hard, and we want to help each one improve in their scores. We are looking forward to the future and seeing what we can do.”

FDR’s season-opener, on the road against New Paltz, was postponed because of weather from Jan. 6 to Jan. 13.

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