Franklin Gymnastics Learns from Sectional Experience

Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Franklin Panther gymnastics Coach Paula Lupien will work to hone the potential of this group, while working to keep them injury-free in a demanding season.
Issue Date: 
January, 2020
Article Body: 

In competing in only their third season, the Franklin gymnastics team not only finished third in the Kelley Rex Division of the Hockomock League and fourth overall, but they also qualified for the Sectionals for the very first time. Although the squad finished 11th out of 12 teams in the South Sectionals, the girls were more than excited to be there.
“It was tough for sure, but we were psyched and honored to be at the Sectionals for the first time,” Franklin Coach Paula Lupien said. “According to the other coaches, it’s usually the same 12 teams from each side, but there were two new faces in Franklin and Norwood. There were a lot of high level gymnasts participating.”
With a taste of the post season, the Panthers are looking to improve upon last years’ experience and take their talent a step further. This winter, Lupien is looking to carry about 20 athletes with about 13-15 actually being contributors to the scoring. In addition to the upper classmen on the squad, she is looking forward to a good group of freshmen entering the high school program.
“As a team, we have the potential to do better that last year if we can stay injury free,” the Panther Coach said. “That’s the challenge with high school gymnastics having 11 meets in 13 weeks. The girls are not used to that, and it puts a lot of strain on them.”
Looking to stay healthy and lead Franklin into battle are the team captains, juniors Sarah Bernstein and Lexi Lupien. Bernstein will participate on the beams, and Lupien will take part in the beam, vault and floor. Last season, Lupien was in the top of the team for the vault, fourth on the beam and sixth in the floor exercise. At this point, the Coach is not sure what she is going to get out of Bernstein, as the junior tore a muscle in the back of her thigh during the off season.
In addition to the captains guiding the way, Franklin has its two top scorers in sophomores Kate Rudolph and Caroline Woelfel. Both athletes will take part in all four events for the Panther this winter, although that wasn’t always the case.
“We expected Kate, who was a Hockomock League All Star last year, was going to be competing in the all-around once again this year, but we were not expecting to lean on Caroline,” Lupien said. “Unfortunately, one of our all-around athletes is not coming back, so we’re going to need to fill that gap. Historically, we have not used Caroline as an all-around in the past, but she has strong performances on the floor, bars and vault. Her beam is a wild card that we will need her to step up her game in.”
Last year in the South Sectionals Woelfel recorded an 8.4 on the floor, while her sophomore teammate recorded a 33.950 in the all-around posting an 8.875 on the floor, 8.125 on the beam, 8.150 on the bars and an 8.800 on the vault. The Panther coach is looking for Rudolph to continue to put up high numbers in all four of her events once again this season.
Franklin lost only three seniors from last year’s team, but two of those seniors were big time performers and instrumental in the team making the Sectionals. This year, Lupien will rely heavily on those girls coming back while integrating the freshman.
“I am very excited about the incoming freshmen and hope that we can get something from them,” she said. “We are going to be a young team, and we’ll have to see who steps it up and takes their game to the next level.”
One thing the Franklin Coach knows is that this team will have a very deep bench when it comes to the athletes, which in turn will give her a lot of flexibility.
“We’ll be able to rely on many athletes instead of just four or five,” Lupien said. “It will also make the team much more competitive, and the girls will challenge one another to see who gets to take part in the next meet.”
Franklin is setting the bar high this season, looking to be one of the top two teams in the league, and they know that it will be a challenge as Mansfield has historically owned the Hock when it comes to gymnastics over the past few years.
“They’re a powerhouse and certainly tough to beat, but we’re gunning for them this year and pushing to be that top team,” the Franklin Coach said. “We’d also like to finish in the top 6 of the Sectionals and move onto States; that has been our pattern – move up one notch from what we did the year before.”
Lupien, who had been coaching gymnastics for a private club for 10 years and in the gym for 14 with her daughter, has seen the decline in girls continuing in gymnastics as they get ready to enter high school.
“Every year I see the eighth graders leave gymnastics to take part in other high school sports,” she said. “I’ve fought really hard to get gymnastics back into the high school, and now that we have put together a strong program, I am hoping that it has a leg to stand on for a long time here in Franklin.”
The rest of the team consists of juniors Sophie Redwine, Kim Marchese and Emma Mosher; sophomores Lizzie Brown, Megan Pritoni. Elizabeth Schirduan and Kylie Winder; and freshmen Ashley Hammann, Maia Keohane, Katherine Kurtz, Maddie McGuire and Emma Nelson. Beth Hurley will assist Lupien with the coaching.