Back bends, tumbling and cartwheels: Gymnastics takes over Old Hammondtown School

By Tanner Harding | Jan 21, 2018
Photo by: Tanner Harding Leighton King works on her back walkovers.

Mattapoisett — It’s after school on Friday at Old Hammondtown School. A speaker in the gym blares music from "High School Musical"—a soundtrack older than most of the students in the room.

Three instructors are spread out with mats, vaults and padding, teaching students from ages 5-12 the different elements of gymnastics.

This has been happening on most Friday afternoons for the past six years. That's when Bay State Gymnastics Academy, located in Dartmouth, teamed up with Mattapoisett Recreation to offer gymnastics classes in town.

“We started here because the recreation director [in Mattapoisett] worked at the Bay State gym,” Bay State director Rachel Hallett said. “We’ve been here ever since. It’s a great thing for kids to be able to do after school.”

Groups of students are divided by age, and can either choose to do the gymnastic session or the tumbling session. Many choose to do both, Hallett said.

“We have kids who stay the full two hours,” she added.

Once split up by age, students can work with instructors individually to learn skills. This is something Sophia Meninno, 12, and Lexi Lord, 11, said they like about the program.

“They spot you and they do it so well,” Meninno said. “You feel really comfortable and you learn so many new things.”

Hallett said this progression in students is a satisfying aspect of the program.

“We’ve had kids who can’t roll when they start, and after eight weeks they can do rolls, cartwheels, aren’t afraid to go upside down,” she said. “You see their confidence grow too.”

Meninno and Lord said they’re both currently working on learning back handsprings. The process is going “ehhh…good,” they agreed.

“My favorite thing to do is a front handspring because it’s so fun,” Lord said.

As for Meninno, she likes a back walkover. “They’re so elegant."

Students warm up with some back bends. (Photo by: Tanner Harding)
Sophia Jackson, 8, works with an instructor. (Photo by: Tanner Harding)
Abby Fortin, 9, flips over a pad. (Photo by: Tanner Harding)
Zoe Papadakis, 7, works on her back bend. (Photo by: Tanner Harding)
Sophia Meninno and Lexi Lord are two veterans of the program. (Photo by: Tanner Harding)
Bay State Gymnastics director Rachel Hallett. (Photo by: Tanner Harding)
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