Bloomfield Hills High School’s varsity rhythmic gymnastics team makes history

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 27, 2022

 Top row, from the left: Chloe Wang, Reese Renton, Lily Ruden and Elizabeth Viazanko. Bottom row, from the left: Emma Borgna, Jaclyn Todromovich and Giulia Borgna.

Top row, from the left: Chloe Wang, Reese Renton, Lily Ruden and Elizabeth Viazanko. Bottom row, from the left: Emma Borgna, Jaclyn Todromovich and Giulia Borgna.

Photo provided by Larry Trinkaus and Amanda DeVergilio, Amanda Rose Photography

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Familiar or not with the sport, rhythmic gymnastics has continued to grow in the United States. Rhythmic gymnastics can be described as a floor routine consisting of different apparatuses, such as hoops, balls, ribbons and clubs.

The popularity remains embedded in Eastern European countries and China, which won the 2020 Summer Olympics Group All-Around Gold, but Bloomfield Hills High School may have broken the barrier on a varsity level.

A high school that has grown accustomed to excelling in varsity gymnastics took a historic leap last season. All it took was one passionate parent.

Laura Renton’s daughter Reese, now a freshman at Oakland University, was a senior at Bloomfield Hills last year. Reese has been a part of Oakland Rhythmic Gymnastics since she was 6 years old along with others on the inaugural varsity team, and Renton felt they deserved varsity recognition for their continuous hard work.

“When I originally pitched it, it was shot down,’’ Laura Renton said. “We thought about it and talked about doing it in other ways.”

Oakland Rhythmic Gymnastics, which is located in Bloomfield Hills, is the longest-running and largest rhythmic gymnastics program in Michigan. The program includes gymnasts from all different high schools, including Troy, Athens, and Bloomfield Hills.

“It’s just such a great community we have at our gym,” varsity gymnast Elizabeth Viazanko said. “It’s something I look forward to going to every day.”

After building a game plan for three years and talks with the district and high school athletic directors, Bloomfield Hills gave the team an affiliated status. The school would provide varsity letters, pins and a team banner inside the school to recognize their efforts.

The team has gained so much traction that USA Gymnastics has been in conversation with them.

“She (Laura Renton) was the mastermind behind asking why rhythmic gymnastics couldn’t go towards a varsity letter,” Bloomfield Hills rhythmic gymnastics coach Charlene Edwards said. “Now USA Gymnastics is interested on how we were able to get it done in Michigan.”

Renton said there was one thing that initially motivated her to achieve varsity status for the team.

“The first thing that really sparked it was why do these girls need to take all these other physical education classes?” Renton siad.

With the affiliated status, varsity rhythmic gymnasts are exempted from two physical education classes and can take two classes of their choice.

Reese Renton said the physical education exemption meant more than just that to her.

“It really allowed me to recognize all the hard work I’d been putting in after school,” Reese Renton said. “We were having to do the gym class because we weren’t recognized as a sport, but it is a sport, and it is super competitive. We work all-year round.”

The inaugural team included team captain Reese Renton, Jaclyn Todromovich, Chloe Wang, Lily Ruden, Elizabeth Viazanko, Giulia Borgna and Emma Borgna. All are members of ORG.

While gymnasts at ORG train year-round and five days a week, the varsity team’s schedule is set from January to June.

The team’s inaugural season was a successful one as Reese Renton and Viazanko both competed in USA Gymnastics national level competitions in Des Moines and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, in June.

The team operated on a point system this season towards earning their varsity letters and pins, and Edwards said that was a focal point for the gymnasts.

“I think the season was so successful this year because of that point system,” Edwards said. “They felt like they were striving for something.”

Edwards, a former USA National Rhythmic Gymnastics Team member, awards points to each varsity gymnasts for various tasks, such as attendance, participation in local events, mentorship of young gymnasts, and participation in tougher events.

The mentorship, known as the “big sister-little sister” program, has been one of the varsity gymnasts’ personal favorites. Each gymnast “adopts” a younger gymnast and will assist them with routines and cheer them on at competitions.

“When I was younger, I was scared of the coaches because I wanted to do it right, and I knew they were trying to make me look better and make corrections to make me perform well,” Todromovich said. “I just think when you step into that position and see a little girl acting how I was, I think it’s really special that you get to help them instead of them being afraid of you.”

Reese Renton, who plans to coach gymnastics one day, taught a kindergarten through third grade ORG gymnastics introduction class at Eastover Elementary during the fall of 2021 and winter of 2022. Renton herself started gymnastics at Eastover Elementary.

“It was like a full-circle moment,” Renton said. “Although it can be challenging at times, it’s really rewarding to see a little girl get excited when she does something new. You’re just able to see that lightbulb in their eyes.”

With a successful year in the books, Bloomfield Hills rhythmic gymnastics will return next year with some new faces from the middle school program.

Edwards said the varsity status has gotten the attention of the younger gymnasts.

“There’s definitely more excitement from my middle-schoolers coming into high school,” Edwards said. “When we were handing out the varsity letters at the team banquet, you could see the middle-schoolers thinking that could be theirs.”

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