Seventh and eighth graders can compete with Warriors
Published in the December 3, 2015 edition.
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
WAKEFIELD — When the dual meet season begins in January, it certainly will be very safe to say that the Wakefield Memorial High girls’ gymnastics team will be very young.
That’s because Brendan Kent, K-12 Director of Athletics, Health and Wellness sought and received a waiver from the MIAA to allow seventh and eighth graders to be members of the varsity team.
The reason why Kent got a waiver was due to concerns about numbers and Wakefield’s ability to field a team this year.
“When we had signups there were low numbers which had me concerned,” said Kent. “So I applied with the MIAA for a waiver for middle school gymnasts from the seventh and eighth grade to help field a team. It would’ve been tough with just high school girls. When I saw the low numbers with signups, I was concerned with the health of the program.”
Kent reports that there are few upperclassmen and that the team will be made up of mostly freshman and sophomores. That has resulted in Wakefield opening up the program for middle school gymnasts to join.
“I hope by having middle school girls in the program, it will help build up the program in the next few years,” said Kent. “Melrose has a strong program, and coming over from Melrose, I didn’t know the situation in Wakefield with the small numbers.”
Being from Melrose, Kent knows the city’s youth program has helped. There was gymnastics at the Tremont Street YMCA at one time and many in Melrose now goes to the YMCA of Metro North in Saugus which is a big reason why the Red Raider girls’ gymnastics program is one of the best in the Middlesex League.
“Melrose has always had a youth program in town,” said Kent. “Wakefield doesn’t have that. Wakefield has youth gymnasts that go to surrounding towns such as Wilmington, Reading and Melrose. I would have to have a youth program in Wakefield to act as a feeder program.”
Getting a waiver wasn’t easy said Kent since the MIAA has cracked down on how often they are given out to prevent schools from abusing the privilege. Kent reported that he had to go before the Middlesex League to get approval before going to the MIAA. Kent said he was denied twice in August and September before getting the approval he needed in October to go get a waiver from the MIAA which he just received in November.
Wakefield finished with an 0-7 record a year ago and there will be nowhere to go but up.
“The track program has been highly successful and that may be drawing away some numbers from gymnastics,” said Kent. “We don’t have many upperclassmen so the team is going to be very young.”
Girls’ gymnastics isn’t the only sport Wakefield has received a waiver for. The Warrior girls’ hockey program received a waiver as well two years ago and it is still in place. In fact, many of the teams in the Middlesex League also received waivers from the MIAA for seventh and eight graders to help build up their programs and keep them alive.