By LAUREN READ
For the first time in a long time, Champlain Valley Union gymnastics coach Madison Bourdeau does not have to talk about trying to dethrone longtime champ Essex.
That’s because this year, everyone will be trying to knock off the Redhawks.
Last year, CVU upended the Hornets, ending their 12-year run as gymnastics state champs and captured the first title for CVU since 1989.
“Last year was really exciting for us,” Bourdeau said. “Not only beating the 12-time state champs but with the last time CVU won being 1989, it was really exciting.”
With that celebration behind them, the CVU team is focusing on the new season.
“We take each meet one at a time,” Bourdeau said. “I think if we do focus on the state championship at the start, we are going to lose what’s happening right in front of us.”
The Redhawks are definitely going to see changes in their lineup as they prepare to defend the title. All three Giubardo sisters – Kam and Jam graduated and younger sister Tali was lost to injury – will have to be replaced. And considering that Jam was first on bars and Tali first on floor, those are big openings.
“This year, I am trying to get a more well-rounded group in all four events,” Bourdeau said, “I would like to have all of the girls be able to participate in all the events throughout the season.”
The four events gymnasts compete in are bars, beam, vault and floor routine.
This season, Coach Bourdeau will count on Laurynn Bombardier, Delaney Miller-Bottoms and newcomer Taylor Hoar along with Alix St. Hilaire returning from last year’s team.
“No one really brought up defending the title,” Bourdeau said of her team’s early season talks. “They brought up having a consistent season before the state championship.”
One of the ways that Bourdeau will work for that early season consistency is encouraging the gymnasts to try out all four events.
“We’re going to hit all four events in practice,” the fifth-year coach said. “Hopefully that will get us in a good place for the state championship.”
In addition, Bourdeau is taking a lesson she learned from last season and trying to translate over the entire year – team bonding.
“Last year at the state championship I played a different role as a coach,” she said. “Instead of putting the pressure on the kids, we pulled back a little bit. We pulled off on practice and did more team bonding.”
Bourdeau hopes these slight changes will give CVU the leg up as they look to start the season.
Because after all, Essex is still, well, Essex.
“Essex is still great, they are going to be competitive,” Bourdeau said. “It’s just going to be who works harder and hits all four events at the state championship.”