Gymnastics team rallies after potential program loss


Maison Flory

Embracing, senior Peyton Fowler and junior Annie Shew share a moment on the mat at the first home meet in three years on Sept. 24.

By Zana Kennedy, Reporter

After a year of fearing the potential cut of their program, the gymnastics teams are back on the beams.

Last year the Lawrence Public Schools administration proposed to cancel both high schools’ gymnastics programs. But after a solid and unanimous uproar from the athletes, the student body, and an investigation into the laws surrounding title nine, the team intends to come back stronger than ever.

The team has great expectations for this season and is looking forward to the year. Junior Charlee Burghart says that the team has been working hard in the offseason to get better at sets and improve their routines and those skills are central to their excitement.

 “I think our routines look really good this year,” Burghart said. “I’m really excited for everyone to see them, especially now that we can have home meets or meets at Rock Chalk park, and so more people can come.”

Many team members have high hopes for competition and have already started making goals for what they want to accomplish this year. Junior Emily Brandt looks towards this year with big expectations for the squad.

“I think a good goal for LHS would be to place in the top five at state this year,” Brandt said. “I think we should be top five with people we have now, but with injuries and everything, I hope we can keep everyone on our roster.”

One of the driving forces of the gymnastics team is their head coach, Kat Farrow, who has committed to working with these athletes by trying to make the team as convenient and accessible as possible to everyone participating.

“For me now, going into gymnastics, it’s very important that we understand them as a whole person,” Farrow said. “They’re a student, they’re an athlete, but they’re also a person.”

The team has struggled to get recognition in the past because many people had little knowledge of the gymnastics teams at either high school. 

“I think there just not a lot of publicity that comes with it,” Brandt said. “Obviously, there’s more now that it almost got cut, but it was really rough because I’d have to tell my teachers that I was leaving for gymnastics, and they just didn’t even know that was a thing.”

The potential removal of the team was a considerable setback for the team last year. Still, one of the most significant contributors to the program’s continuation was the many protests organized to support the team.

“We literally had men, grown athletes in our leotards saying, ‘If I was wearing this would you cancel the men’s program?’,” said Farrow. “You read the posters, and you read the boards, and you see that this wasn’t a male vs. female, this wasn’t a Free State vs. LHS, this was don’t do this to these athletes.”

The support from the student body was overwhelming, and many of the team members were pleasantly surprised by the turnout.

“The support we had just felt unreal because originally we thought it was not very many people were gonna come out,” Burghart said. “But to see that we had the student body backing us up and it wasn’t just us thinking that it was ridiculous, and everyone else was, I don’t know, it was just unreal.”

The budget cuts brought challenges to the program, but the team is getting the publicity they deserve for the first time in years. On top of that, the school board is finally giving them more funding.

“Now we have warm-ups provided for us, which we’ve never had since I’ve started,” Farrow said. “We have apparel bags that are being provided for us. We’ve got equipment ordered that we added for safety.”

Despite getting more recognition than they have ever received, there are still many ways to spread awareness of the program, which also requires support from other athletic programs.

“We need our other male sports to support our female sports to show up for us,” Farrow said. “Not just them existing and getting the support and because they’re male and because it’s a sport with notoriety. We need our other male-dominated sports to come support us, to come show up for us because we’re pretty amazing.”

Throughout last year, even after all the challenges the gymnastics team has overcome, the team has been a supportive environment for everyone involved.

“We’re all just kinda like a family,” Burghart said. “I mean, you can go in there and have a bad day, and they’re the type of people who will lift you up, and they’re not going to pressure you.”

But gymnastics is not only a family within one high school. The LHS and the Free State team have also formed a community creating a unique link between the schools.

“There’s a reason that we are called the Firelions; because we are Lawrence strong,” Farrow said. “It’s not just LHS vs. Free State, which we do, there is a healthy competition between green vs. red, lions and firebirds, but ultimately gymnastics is what joins us together.”