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Gymnast Julia Higa leads while keeping fine balance

Observer courtesy photos (RIGHT) Julia Higa performs a beam routine in December, 2015 and practices this fall.
Observer courtesy photos
(RIGHT) Julia Higa performs a beam routine in December, 2015 and practices this fall.
 (LEFT) in preparation for the winter sports season. She says the balance beam is her favorite event, and where she can be most expressive.
(LEFT) in preparation for the winter sports season. She says the balance beam is her favorite event, and where she can be most expressive.

By Lauren Read

Observer correspondent

At the start of last season, the first-year Champlain Valley Union High School gymnastics coach Madison Bourdeau needed some help. Hired just two weeks before the start of the regular season, the coach had very little time to prepare.

Enter stage left, Julia Higa.

The then-junior stepped in on Bourdeau’s “day one” to help the coach get her feet under her, and this season Higa has continued to serve as a leader for the Redhawks.

“She came and helped me with whatever I needed,” Bourdeau said. “She’s a leader in the gym.”

The key to Higa’s success both as a two-time captain and a gymnast is her passion for the sport. The senior has competed in gymnastics since she was five years old.

“It is just one of those passions you can’t give up,” Higa said of her sport. “No matter how hard it gets, I always come back to it.”

That passion results in Higa playing a surrogate coach for the large number of beginning gymnasts on the CVU squad this year.

“It’s pretty impressive to see her passion,” Bourdeau said. “It’s not just about her, she took on the role of teaching the beginners the basics of what they are going to need to know throughout the season.”

While Higa acts as the senior leader for the Redhawks, she also shines as a gymnast in competitions. Last year, Higa placed sixth in the beam competition at the state championship meet, her best finish, and she regularly competes as an all-around gymnast — taking part in the vault, beam, uneven bars and floor exercise.

“She’s extremely focused, she’s extremely determined,” Bourdeau said. “She comes in every year and wants to learn something.”

While the senior enjoys all of the exercises, and shines in her floor routine according to her coach, Higa’s favorite event is the beam.

“You have to be in your zone,” Higa said. “You have so much room to express yourself in routines, it’s my event to express myself.”

After dedicating herself to gymnastics for the last 13 years, Higa is looking forward to her senior year and what the CVU team can do.

“I am really excited for this season,” Higa said. “Our goal this year is first place.”

The Redhawks will open the season on Wednesday, Dec. 14, at Milton High School.