EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 13, 2013

Boys fitting in just fine for Methuen girls gymnastics team

Smith, Cyr fit in with -- and boost -- Methuen's gymnastics team

By Dave Dyer

---- — Cyanna Roig is one persuasive young lady.

Still, even after the Methuen senior and captain had convinced Zach Smith and Cam Cyr to join the girls gymnastics team last year, there was one issue that had to be resolved, at least as far as Cyr was concerned.

“One of my first thoughts when I decided to join was that I really didn’t want to wear a skin-tight uniform, like a leotard,” said Cyr. “I don’t think I could have stood that.

“But we went to (head coach) Kevin (Gendreau) and he said we could wear shorts and a shirt. I was very relieved.”

With that off their minds, Smith and Cyr joined the team not only without reservations, but with enthusiasm. Both had been youth gymnasts but had given up the sport when they were 12.

“My friend Cyanna told me about the team and then I found out that Cam was thinking about it,” said Smith. “We decided to do it together.”

Both Smith and Cyr had enjoyed gymnastics when they were younger and were ready to return to the sport. But both agreed that, as Cyr said, “I don’t think I would have joined the girls team unless we both did it together.”

Roig’s motive for asking them to join had nothing to do with sex integration.

“I just remember when they were younger that they were really good and I thought they could help the team,” she said.

She was right.

Specializing in the vault, which is an event in which a boys’ greater strength is advantageous, both Smith and Cyr were all-conference gymnasts last year.

With a start level of 10, Smith recorded a best score of 9.8, which is a school record. This year, he’s placed first in every meet in the vault, with an average of 9.6, while Cyr is usually second or third at about 9.2.

“They both have good strength and their background in the sport has helped,” said Gendreau. “They’ve been a big addition to the team.”

Smith and Cyr are also valuable as teammates, getting support from their girl teammates and receiving it in kind and then some.

“They were all very welcoming to us and they’re always cheering for us, supporting us,” said Cyr.

After some initial skepticism last year, said Roig, it didn’t take long for the girls to accept Smith and Cyr as equal members of the team.

“When I first told my teammates that we’d have boys on the team, they thought it’d be weird,” she said. “But they fit right in and now we don’t even think about it. It seems like it’s the way it’s always been.”

And Smith and Cyr, who have gotten a surprising amount of backing from their friends, couldn’t be happier.

“It’s been awesome seeing all my old coaches and friends,” said Cyr, whose best sport is baseball and is leaning toward playing baseball at Southern Maine next year. “I just have a really good time and a lot of fun.”

As for Smith, who also competes in the floor exercise but whose main goal is to score a perfect 10 in the vault, he’s enjoyed himself so much that he wants to compete in gymnastics in college.

“I’m glad I came back to gymnastics — it’s just a lot of fun to compete,” said Smith. “Competing with the girls has been fine. When I was younger, most of the practices were with mostly girls, so it wasn’t that weird at all. It’s all good.”

There are some rival coaches and girls on other teams who disapprove of Smith and Cyr competing, and beating them, in the vault, but they seem to be in the minority.

And anyway, says Cyr, “A lot of the girls are really talented. We might have a little more strength, but they’ve been doing it so long that gives them an advantage.”

Also, when the state meet takes place, the boys compete against boys only (from coed teams). In that format, Smith was second at state in the vault last year with Cyr taking fifth.