By Lauren Read
The Champlain Valley gymnastics team has waited 12 years for a chance to take down powerhouse Essex. They have waited 29 years to once again be named Vermont state champions.
On Saturday, the wait was over.
The Redhawks earned a team score of 142.325 to beat the 12-time defending state champs and win the Vermont state gymnastics championships.
“It’s just really exciting,” CVU coach Madison Bourdeau said. “To see them come in every day and give it 100 percent, it was good to see them get what they deserved.”
While CVU ended Saturday’s state championship meet at Essex with the trophy, the wait was a tense one for both the coach and the gymnasts.
“We were actually behind the first two events,” Bourdeau said. “Once I saw we were down, I stopped paying attention to scores. I really had no idea (who had won).”
After Essex had taken miniscule leads on both the vault and the bars, the competition turned to the beam, where the Redhawks had needed extra work all season.
“The week before states, we didn’t train all-around,” Bourdeau said. “We trained beams and bars. That’s where we were behind and that’s where we took it at the competition.”
The hard work paid off. CVU fought through every wobble, just like their coach told them to, and passed Essex on the scoresheet.
“Before each event, I chose a person who I thought represented that event, and I wrote them a letter to read to the team before the event,” the coach said. “For beam, it was Tali Giubardo. It doesn’t look pretty, but she fights so hard to not fall.”
That translated to success for the Redhawks, who placed all four of their top scoring gymnasts in the top 10 on beam and pushed CVU ahead of the Hornets with one event to go.
“I hate to get my hopes up,” Bourdeau said. “After beam, they got their adrenaline back. When I saw their tumbling come through, I thought we might have it, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.”
On the floor exercise, CVU came out ahead again, making the announcement at the end full of tension.
“My heart was going,” Bourdeau said of the announcement. “The second they mentioned Essex as second place, you just saw tears start flowing.”
Strong individual performances helped to propel the Redhawks. Giubardo earned the top score on the floor exercise, Laurynn Bombardier was the top finisher in the vault and Jam Giubardo finished first in the bars.
“It’s a program that not a lot of people recognize the difficulty in, the hours that they put in,” Bourdeau said. “There is finally appreciation in what those girls do every single day.”
After a season that saw CVU down Essex in the regular season for the first time in seven seasons and dismantle a state championship dynasty, the reality is slowly setting in for the Redhawk gymnasts.
“They are just so proud of each other,” Bourdeau said. “They have a group message, and it has been just overflowing with messages saying how proud they are of each other.
“It’s exciting; it’s so surreal.”