Edgemont senior Kate Howard has been on and off — and on and off — with gymnastics since age 5. With an opportunity to compete for her high school she returned to the sport once again sophomore year and hasn’t looked back since.
Wanting to be with her friends when she was young, Howard took a turn at soccer.
“I would do cartwheels on the field and they were like, ‘Maybe this isn’t the sport for you. Maybe you shouldn’t be doing soccer,’” she said. “That didn’t work out. Every other sport just didn’t work out for me and I always ended up circling back to gymnastics.”
Howard got her start at The Little Gym and did the Edgemont recreation program with Spotlight Gymnastics. She got “super serious” about gymnastics in sixth grade and competed for Westchester Gymnastics, but eventually left because she “had a lot going on” and “it was really competitive.”
Edgemont had shuttered its gymnastics program after the 2015-16 season, but brought it back as a pilot program that would practice only for the winter of 2018-19. Last winter the team was elevated to a competitive program once again. The numbers and consistency have been better this year, a good sign the team could be here to stay.
“I really love it this year,” Howard said. “Last year there were like four or five girls on the team, so it was not really a big thing. This year I’m so happy there are more girls. And they’re really good. I love my teammates. I’m really happy I have kind of like a community.”
Howard is the lone upperclassman on the team. In fact she’s only 1 of 2 high schoolers along with freshman Sanjana Karthik. The rest of the roster consists of nine seventh and eighth graders, another sign of hope for a long-lasting program.
“The girls are really cool, really mature,” Howard said. “I can’t really tell that they’re in seventh grade and I really like that.”
What coach Kathryn Martell loves about the program is that there are always opportunities for the girls to grow. That point was hit home with Howard, who competed a flyaway dismount on bars.
“She got her flyaway as a senior,” Martell said. “She had stopped after she thought she had peaked at 13 and she wasn’t going to learn any new skills. But this is a new time and she has new coaches and she learned a new stunt within three weeks. She got the flyaway, which is a really big, emotional trick.”
Howard had tried a flyaway once, but she almost broke her foot.
“I was terrified to do it,” she said. “Then recently Allison [Hallowell] kind of coached me into doing it. She made me do a bunch of drills and I had spotters and I just did it. Now it’s actually easy and I can’t believe I was scared of it before.” (Hallowell had been a middle schooler on Edgemont’s team prior to it folding and helped out as a senior when Howard was a sophomore.)
Success on the bars changed Howard’s outlook. “It made me really happy,” she said. “I was really bad at bars and it gives me hope that I can maybe improve on the other events I’m bad at the same way I did on bars.”
Howard realizes the love she has for the sport is as a recreational gymnast who gets to be part of a fun, supportive environment.
“I’m not at the skill level I should be at for my age because I quit so many times, which is my fault, but at this point it’s just for fun because I love gymnastics,” she said.
Even though she’s the role model on the team, Howard looks up to her talented teammates, who also adore her. With her career winding down, she’s thought a lot about the future of her teammates.
“There have been practices where I thought about it,” she said. “I’ve thought in a couple of years I hope these girls do really well. I really hope this team continues. They’ve already asked me to come back and visit them. My friend Beatrice [Lytton] from the team doesn’t want me to leave.”
Based on Howard’s personal accomplishments, Martell has faith in her senior.
“I’m hoping she’ll be able to take that and apply it to anything in life,” Martell said. “You never peak. You can always keep learning and growing.”