BRISTOL - Carissa Ouellette may be the only gymnast representing Bristol Central high school, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t do the school proud.
At the State Open, Ouellette finished eighth place in the vault event with a score of 9.075. There were 45 gymnasts competing in the event.
“Making it to State Open was one of my favorite moments in gymnastics,” Ouellette. “Because I work all year and all season doing double practices in order to qualify for it.”
She also placed 24th of 42 participants in the floor exercise with a score of 8.50.
Much of her time has been devoted to the sport. Ouellette has been a gymnast since she was just two years old. She practices multiple times a day four times a week.
All the work paid off with her being named first team All-State for the vault event.
“It’s been a major part of my life because I spend so much time in the gym,” Ouellette said. “During competition season you’re in the gym from 230-430 and then a second practice from 6-9.”
Ouellette transferred into Bristol Central after her freshman and sophomore years of high school, which were spent at Pomperaug, the school she travelled with to compete in meets since Bristol doesn’t have a team.
Being back with her old school is an interesting dynamic, yet all of the girls do gymnastics outside of the school program, specifically with the Junior Olympics club. Hal Rettstadt is the coach of both the Pomperaug team and the Junior Olympics club.
Being able to compete against girls from different schools in season is something Ouellette enjoys, as outside of the school team a lot of them are teammates.
“It’s cool because we all go to different high schools but during junior Olympics we’re all on the same team,” Ouellette said. “So we get to compete against each other during the high school season.”
The club travels all over the state competing in different invitationals.
Ouellette is hoping to continue her gymnastics career in college. She’s been talking to coaches from different programs but nothing has been decided yet.
“If I don’t do gymnastics in college, I won’t continue doing it because I won’t be part of the junior Olympics program,” Ouellette said. “If I do it in college I just hope to make the team and I’ll continue to put in the work needed to improve as a gymnast.”
For a gymnast, the ultimate level of competition is in the Olympic Games. For Ouellette, Maggie Nichols is her inspiration in the sport.
Nichols, a well-known gymnast, was a contender for the Summer Olympics in 2016 but a knee injury derailed those chances. She went on to become one of the most dominant gymnasts at the college level.
“Maggie Nichols has been my inspiration in the sport because she didn’t make the Olympic team but ended up doing college gymnastics at Oklahoma and being so good,” Ouellette said. “Even though she didn’t make the Olympics she still continued her career and didn’t look back.”
Regardless of what the next step is for Ouellette, she may have inspired others in the area to take up the sport of gymnastics and possibly have a school team in the future.
“I can’t say if the school will ever have a team,” Ouellette said. “But the sport has taught me so many lessons in life. Time management, working together as a team, showing support to everybody and being kind to people are all lessons it’s taught me. I’m appreciative of all the sport has given me.”