This is something that has been building in East Brunswick for years.
Year after year, the team has continued to move forward.
In 2019, the Bears won the Greater Middlesex Conference Championship but fell in the Sectional Meet.
Last year the team was more experienced and ready for the next challenge, but when the COVID-19 pandemic moved the gymnastics season to spring and scrapped post-season competition, all eyes were on. towards the 2021 campaign.
This year, we can safely say that East Brunswick has met all expectations and even more.
The Bears finished undefeated during the regular season and recovered a lot of material during postseason competition. After an incredible season, East Brunswick was named the NJ.com Team of the Year for the 2021 gymnastics season.
“Everyone, gymnasts, coaches and parents, are working so hard towards a common goal,” said East Brunswick head coach Nadine Murray. “It’s a very gratifying feeling to see this all come together. No doubt, the gymnasts of the team have talent. But talent alone doesn’t necessarily get you where you need to be.
“Our biggest factor that really sets us apart is our camaraderie. The support, emotional and physical, that teammates show each other is inspiring. When an individual was successful, they were all really happy for that person. Showing that level of support is one of the reasons we’ve done so well this season.
Another big reason was Karina Munoz, who won NJ.com Gymnast of the Year honors for the second straight season in 2021. Following her leadership, East Brunswick totaled four of the team’s top six scores in the State, topped by the 113.25 which came when the The Bears won the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2 meet. During the regular season, the Bears did not record a team score below 105 and slipped below 108 only once.
There was no shortage of stiff competition on the schedule for East Brunswick, who started the season with victory over Old Bridge and also beat Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Rumson-Fair Haven.
Just nine days before the GMC Championships, East Brunswick faced off in a doubleheader with St. Thomas Aquinas, which was its biggest competition in the conference in years. the The bears defeated the Trojanswhich put them on a serious streak heading into the conference meeting.
“After each competition, we would start the next practice by discussing what went well and what needed work,” Murray said. “Practice right after a competition was all about working on goals and working on mistakes made during the competition. It was also when the coaches and the team would decide on our next goal for the next game. Our constant re-evaluation motivated us to improve as the season continued.
East Brunswick would win the GMC Championships with a score of 111.85, then posted the leaderboard-high 113.25 to win the sections and qualify for the state team championships.
“With each passing year since I’ve been on the team, I feel like we’ve gained more confidence in ourselves and in our gymnastics,” Munoz said. “We were always seen as the underdogs and we wanted to show everyone that we had the ability to be a top team.”
The Bears competed in the Tag Team Championships at The Brick Memorial last month, seeking their first title in program history, and accomplished just that by scoring 111.725 points to complete a perfect season.
“Last season, as coaches, we were very aware of the possibilities this season could provide,” Murray said. “When Coach Kaplow and I saw how well the team got along and what their routines looked like, we knew what we saw last season could come to fruition.”
“We understood that to win a championship, a team must possess athletic depth. We thought we had it this year. We just needed to stay positive and healthy.
East Brunswick has a lot of depth and it started with Munoz. The Iowa product won the all-around GMC, section, and state contests. That doesn’t include the four gold medals she won and the floor routine record of 9.85 set in one of the all-time best performances at individual state championships.
“Even though we compete individually on the events, we each understand that our performance will affect the team’s score,” Munoz said. “We understand that it is important to support each other and that each of us has a role in the team, whether we are on the competition pitch or on the sidelines cheering on our team-mates. Team camaraderie is what gets you through the ups and downs of the sport.
Junior twins Kathryn and Arianna McSweeney and sophomore Sasha Marcinczyk — all All-State selections this season — joined Munoz to show how the team’s talent has grown in individual championships. All three competitors finished in the top 20 on vault, bars and floor, as well as in the all-around.
Although Munoz is graduating, East Brunswick have shown they have plenty of returning talent to continue building on next season.
“If everyone stays healthy, we could have another successful season,” Murray said. “We had three other members, besides Karina, who qualified for the all-around in the individual competition. The other sophomores and freshmen on the team work hard and will bring new skills into the season.
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