Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


January 31, 2013

Boys gymnastics pummeled

State no longer recognizes sport, teams

The top male gymnast at Andover High School is mulling over college acceptance letters from Ohio State and Penn State universities.

AHS senior Brian Manning, one of the top gymnasts in New England, will continue gymnastics in college, said his coach Steve Sirois.

But Manning’s high school, where he mastered his skills, is being forced to eliminate its boys gymnastics team. That’s because the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Board of Directors just voted to eliminate boys gymnastics as an MIAA sport. This winter will be the final season in which boys gymnastics will be an MIAA-sponsored sport. Male gymnasts across the state will have to compete on girls teams at their high schools or join a private gymnastics club.

Seven high schools with all-boys gymnastic teams are affected, including Andover. The other high schools are Attleboro, Braintree, Burlington, Lowell, Newton North and Newton South.

“To not recognize us, to break ties … it’s just crazy,” said Sirois, who has been the AHS boys gymnastics coach for 32 years.

He said the sport is actually growing and he points to Methuen where two boys are currently on the girls gymnastics team and officials there want to start a gymnastics team for boys.

Sirois said the elimination vote occurred when the representative for the seven high schools was in the hospital and could not attend the meeting. The MIAA Board of Directors voted anyway leaving Sirois and his team shattered.

Sirois said the reason for the elimination vote comes down to a rule book. The National Federation of State High School Associations announced in April that it would no longer be writing national rules for boys gymnastics and the MIAA vote was cast as a result, Sirois said.

“That’s what this is about - one page in the book of rules. You shouldn’t shun 160 to 200 gymnasts at seven high schools because of one page,” he said. “We can write our own rules.”

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