On October 1, the Roxbury High School (New Jersey) and Randolph High School (NJ) girl’s gymnastics teams competed in a meet that was the highest attended in school history at Randolph High School. It wasn’t surprising that the meet between the cross-town rivals had such high attendance. The surprising part was last year this record setting meet wouldn’t have even been possible. The 2018 fall season was the first time ever that Roxbury High School fielded a girl’s gymnastics team.
Roxbury High School had one student compete last season as an independent gymnast, but after numerous parents reached out about starting a girl’s gymnastics program, Roxbury Athletic Director Stuart Mason realized the idea was one worth exploring.
“I was contacted by enough parents that I felt it would be worthwhile to schedule an evening interest meeting.” Mason said. “The parents and students that were there were passionate about gymnastics and really were hoping to have an opportunity to represent the high school and the community.”
With enough interest from high school and middle school students and parents, the next step for Mason was to gain the support of the superintendent and the assistant superintendent. Once that approval was received, they wrote a program proposal that included the number of interested participants, budget costs and the benefits the program would have to the district.
Mason estimated the cost of implementing the new program was roughly $20,000 with half being funded by the booster club.
“We are fortunate to have a supportive and motivated group of parents that were able to organize themselves quickly and develop a parent booster club.” Mason said.
Roxbury High School currently does not have the space to house gymnastics equipment, so part of the cost was to rent space at a local gymnastics facility for the team to practice in. However, the team does utilize the high school’s weight room to complete workouts that do not require equipment.
For the first two years the gymnastics program will be a trial program. After that two-year trial period, the program will be fully funded by the school.
Another thing that had to be considered before moving forward was the ability to sustain the program.
“We looked to make sure that this would be something that we could support more than just a year or two before moving forward.” Mason said.
Parents and students in every grade levels down to elementary school, showed up at the interest meeting and Mason determined that there was strong potential for the program to be viable beyond the two-year trial period.
Currently, the roster is made up of nine girls: one senior, three juniors, one sophomore and four freshmen and there is belief the roster will be even bigger next year.
“With the success of the program and the recognition the student athletes have received we have already had new students at the high school inquire about participating next year.” Mason said.
Hiring a head coach to guide the new program was the next step in the process for Mason. This brought former Roxbury Gael, Tara Liska, on board.
Liska has over 15 years of club gymnastics experience as well as being a former state champion pole vaulter for the Gaels. She’s also a certified athletic trainer.
“She understands the pride we have in our athletic programs at Roxbury and what it takes to run a successful program.” Mason said. “She is organized and focused on giving the girls a great high school gymnastic experience.”
The inaugural season was a success as the team finished with a 6-2 record and placed second at its League Championship meet. Roxbury had three gymnasts qualify for the sectionals meet with one moving on to the state meet.
The chance to represent their high school and community is a privilege that many students value and Mason recognized that by adding this program he was able to give more students at Roxbury High School the opportunity to do so.
“Roxbury has an athletic history of pride and tradition that is over 100 years old. It has been great to see the beginning of the next great Gael program.” Mason said. “The experiences the girls are having will have an impact that lasts a lifetime.”