Strong senior class ready to lead Wakefield gymnastics in ’21

Dec 30, 2020 by

Published in the December 30, 2020 edition.

By DAN PAWLOWSKI

WAKEFIELD — Over the course of just a few years, the Wakefield High gymnastics team transformed from a group struggling to hold their own against an overwhelmingly talented Middlesex League to one of the elite programs in the region. 

In fact, if you wanted to pick an exact timeframe, three years would be fair – back to the 2017-18 season. That’s when head coach Rachel Lucas and assistant Meg Delory took over a program that had plenty of potential. On that team was a group of dedicated freshmen who would spend the next three seasons helping their coaches build a powerhouse.

Wakefield’s improvement was drastic and immediate.

They got better each season culminating last year in a second place finish at the league meet followed by their third consecutive trip to North Sectionals where they got their best score in program history, taking 5th overall. 

The Warriors will have nine seniors compete in the 2021 season, also a record for the Warrior gymnastics program: four captains Courtney Collins, Lola Barrett, Giana Liotine and Jessie Maffe along with Georgia Lamarre, Ava Licciardi, Nicole Miller, Ashlyn Olsen and Alana Willis.

“All of these seniors will leave an enormous void on our team after this year,” said Lucas. “Part of the reason we are so thankful to have a season this year is because this group of seniors were freshmen when Meg and I took over coaching. They’re the first group we have had for all four years of their high school gymnastics careers. They are the reason we have had so much fun over the last three years and the reason the program is now thriving.”

For that reason, Wakefield gymnastics’ most accomplished class has the right to feel disappointed that their final season won’t include a chance to improve yet again at a state meet. They certainly earned that much.

“Motivation is a little low this year,” admitted Lucas. “I think there was so much uncertainty leading up to the season and so much has been taken away from these kids this year that they all seem a little skeptical the season will happen at all. With that being said, with the challenges of social distancing and mask wearing – they’ve been amazing. They follow all the safety rules perfectly, we haven’t had to talk to a single athlete about wearing the mask or keeping distance. We are lucky they are all so careful – it is definitely helping us keep the season going.”

Like all high school teams during this frustrating year, the Warriors are trying to stay optimistic. There will be a season after all, and a chance to send the seniors out with one more incredible run.

“Goals are tough this year without any postseason meets,” said Lucas. “Our goals this year are honestly just making sure our team has a fun and safe season. These kids are missing out on so much, especially our seniors, and we can tell that overall stress levels for them is a lot higher. My main priority is to make sure they are safe and having some fun together. And of course, we hope to win some meets.”

That final goal begins on Jan. 9 at 4 p.m., when the Warriors travel to Reading to challenge a Rockets team that has long been the standard in the Middlesex League. Wakefield has proven to be their biggest competition recently, providing the seniors with one of the best opportunities of their high school careers. Wakefield went 7-1 last year with their only loss to the Rockets. A Reading loss in the regular season is rare, but the Warriors have been proving people wrong for long enough to know what it takes. A win would be another program milestone. 

“It will certainly be our toughest meet of the season,” said Lucas of Reading. As for the other six competitions scheduled this year, the coach said it’s unclear who else will have a strong team. “It’s so hard to know this year, because private clubs haven’t been competing. But we do know that our league is getting stronger every single year and competition is getting tougher each season.”

Joining the nine from the Wakefield Class of 2021 will be juniors Sydney Yee and Molly Grady who Lucas said will be instrumental to Wakefield’s success. Yee finished second on the team in all around at North Sectionals last season. Lola Barrett led the Warriors with an all around score of 35.850 tied for 6th overall in the north.

Sophomore Paige Butland is also a player to watch this season, as is incoming freshman Mia Rich. 

“Honestly, our entire team works so well together, I can’t imagine a successful season without each and every one of them,” said Lucas.

Together, the Warriors will enjoy a chance to keep doing what they love, even if they won’t get to perform in front of family and friends with the league’s no spectator policy currently in place. Wakefield High and WCAT will work on live streaming or at least taping all home meets this year. 

“It seems like the only thing they have this year,” said Lucas when asked why sports are so vital to student athletes right now. “No dances, no senior activities, no weekends with their friends; this is a chance for them to feel some semblance of normalcy. They get to be together, train together and compete together.

“Fingers crossed we all stay healthy and can give these athletes the season they deserve.”

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