Local gymnasts bring home the gold


By Valerie Franchi, ContributingWriter

Yuen, a senior at Shrewsbury High School, is caught in mid-air during a tumbling pass.
Yuen, a senior at Shrewsbury High School, is caught in mid-air during a tumbling pass.

Region – Shrewsbury senior Megan Yuen was one of 21 elite gymnasts from throughout the state to become part of Team Massachusetts, the newly crowned 2013 National High School Gymnastics champions.

Yuen, along with team members Alissa Wood and Chloe Herczeg from Algonquin Regional High School, competed in the May 16-19 national meet held in Ft. Myers Beach, Fla. The team edged out Illinois by tying a meet record.

“The whole experience was awesome,” Yuen said. “It was great to see all the incredible talent.”

The local gymnasts were selected by coaches”

Megan Yuen (center) proudly wears her
Megan Yuen (center) proudly wears her “Boston Strong” t-shirt with teammates and roommates Gina Pomponi (left) of Billerica and Kathryn Manning of Lowell.

recommendations and placement in regional competitions. Team Massachusetts Coach Lisa Mansfield had only praise for the three local gymnasts.

“Alissa worked through some pain to contribute to the team,” she said. “She pushed herself and was absolutely a team player.”

According to Mansfield, Herczeg was nicknamed “the anchor” because both in team and in individual finals she was the final competitor. “She was also incredibly composed and solid under pressure,” she noted.

Yuen won the team's award for being the “most smiley.” “She was so supportive of her teammates and was positive the whole weekend,” Mansfield said.

Yuen, who trains at the Gymnastics Learning Center in Shrewsbury, began the sport when she was 9 years old, relatively late for a gymnast. “Many of my teammates started at 4 or 5,” she said.

At the competition, Yuen competed on the uneven parallel bars, balance beam and in the floor exercise, the two latter being her favorite events.

“I like the beam because it is the most difficult, trying to stay on four inches,” she said, adding that her best move is the back tuck. “I also like the floor because I like to tumble and you get to show off your personality.”

Her signature tumbling pass is a round-off back handspring layout one-and-a-half twist.

The trip to the nationals was a great experience, according to Yuen. “We had all competed against each other,” she explained. “Then we were thrown together and forced to bond over only three or four practices. We all contributed in different ways.”

By the end of the three days in Florida, Yuen said she made many new good friends. “We were sad to leave at the end,” she noted, adding that she hopes to stay in touch with them.

The team also bonded over its dedication of the meet to the victims and survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings. “We felt that we were representing Massachusetts, so we wore blue and yellow ribbons on our leotards,” Yuen explained.

The team also sold the ribbons at the meet, with the money raised to be donated to the One Fund. According to Mansfield, the team raised $500 from the sale of 300 ribbons at $1 each and a $200 donation from the meet organizer, the National High School Gymnastics Association.

“We were supported by the other teams,” Mansfield said. “We received a standing ovation from the other teams when we won and felt proud to be from Massachusetts.”

Like many of her teammates, including Wood and Herczeg, Yuen will be taking a break from gymnastics as she goes off to college. The National Honor student will be attending Boston College in the fall, majoring in biology.

She would like to join a club team in the future if Boston College creates one. “I would love to continue in the sport because I feel like I's not done yet,” Yuen said.

But to continue on the path of her idols such as U.S. Olympic gold medalists Jordyn Weiber and Aly Raisman is a huge commitment.

Overall, she is content with her gymnastic accomplishments. “Winning the national championship??”I can's think of a better way to end my gymnastics career,” she said.