They never had previous experience with a pommel horse or high bar. Asked to do chin-ups in front of classmates in the Andover High School cafeteria, most were thinking "like that will ever happen!" And for many current members of the AHS boys gymnastics team playing basketball, baseball, football or hockey, was out of the question.
"Those kids play those sports for years before they get to high school. And we didn't," said co-captain Aghishah Sinha, 17, and an AHS senior. "No way could we do those sports."s
Yet, these guys wanted to get in shape, be on a team and do something during the winter high school sports season.
Now they have. And what started as a sort of "Bad News Bears" gymnastics team with no experience and no skills, has blossomed into the "Good News Gymnasts."
This weekend, the team will compete in the top state gymnastic competition, at Braintree High School.
AHS gymnast superstar Brian Manning is expected to get his usual high scores. He has put his team on the gymnastics map this season.
But, as any good coach will say, there's no "I" in team. Behind Andover's superstar gymnast is a story about one of the golden rules of team sports: never quit and support each other. Seven of Manning's teammates met with the Townsman to talk about competing on the squad. They are thrilled with Manning's success, as he aspires to compete in Div. 1 gymnastics in college. But, fellow team members will never be that good and that's fine with them.
They still practice on the bars, on the rings, on the floor mats and on the pummel horse until blisters bleed through the tape on their hands.
Every day after school, this team lugs equipment into the gym and practices for at least two hours. When squeezed out because other sports, like basketball, need their space, they practice in hallways.