Our Past | 1985: Gymnastics program flourishes in Mansfield

Selected by Karen Larsen

The following excerpts come from an article published in the Feb. 7, 1985 edition of the Waterville Empire Press.


Mansfield gymnasts perform

One can’t help but be impressed when eighth-grader Jodi Pease takes a short run, does a handstand and follows up with a front flip. One is further impressed when little Cari Matthiesen, a fourth-grader, comes bounding over the mat with the same routine coordinating her moves with Jodi.

But what these two girls make look relatively simple comes from lots of hard work and practice and with the able assistance of Mary Snell, a physical education teacher at Mansfield School since 1969.

This is Snell’s sixth year of developing the gymnastics program at Mansfield and the program is showing many benefits. Snell has formed the Mansfield Gymnastic Club which has performed at many Mansfield home basketball games and also performed this Saturday afternoon between the grade school basketball games between Mansfield and Waterville at the Waterville gym.

Snell spends much of her free time working with kids in gymnastics. She works with them after school and many times the kids give up their lunch period to work on their routines.

“From an educational standpoint, gymnastics helps kids develop better coordination,” Snell says. “You can see they have better flexibility, agility and balance when they can start doing back hand springs and back flips. It improves the kids’ spatial awareness tremendously.”

Snell says she likes working with all ages. “And, yes, boys of all ages are welcome into the program.” She also works with preschool students on up. Snell has been getting more help with her program and wanted to make sure her assistant, Pam Matthiesen, received credit for all her volunteer work. “Pam helps out a lot,” Snell said. “She helps spot the girls, encourages them and works with them.”

Other help has come from the Mansfield Lions Club which donated a beam to the program this past year and the horse has been purchased from Orchard Junior High. The school district has also put some money into the program for equipment.

Jim Mickelson, principal at Mansfield School, said Snell had been working with the kids for several years, building the program. “The oldest kids are in the eighth grade now, and obviously the program has been very successful,” Mickelson commented.

The Mansfield School Board approved adding gymnastics as a coaching position last year and gymnastics is now recognized by the district as part of the sports program, Mickelson said.