Bloomfield Hills gymnastics is all smiles at the Fraser Invitational Jan. 7 at Fraser High School.

Bloomfield Hills gymnastics is all smiles at the Fraser Invitational Jan. 7 at Fraser High School.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Bloomfield Hills gymnastics finds footing, eyes state finals return

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 24, 2023

 Bloomfield Hills freshman Lainey Socha performs her floor routine at the Fraser Invitational Jan. 7 at Fraser High School.

Bloomfield Hills freshman Lainey Socha performs her floor routine at the Fraser Invitational Jan. 7 at Fraser High School.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — It’s a new-look squad for Bloomfield Hills gymnastics, but they’re still striving for the same success.

Following a regional championship and 11th-place finish at the Michigan High School Athletic Association State Finals last season, Bloomfield Hills has had to pick up the pieces from the departure of a strong senior class.

With the departure of Maeve Wright, Katie Noettl and Chloe Gilcher, Bloomfield Hills looked to their new set of leaders to fill the void. Wright was a regional champion in the all-around in 2022 and collected back-to-back top-five finishes at the state finals, fifth and fourth, respectively, while Gilcher finished 20th in the all-around at the state finals and fifth at the regional meet.

“It’s been kind of trying to keep that same success as last year, but also figuring out what the team was going to look at,” Bloomfield Hills coach Julia Chapman said.

Luckily for Bloomfield Hills, returning senior captains Cameron Spagna and Genevieve Orlewicz, and junior captain Taryn Saroken took control of the leadership position.

Orlewicz led Bloomfield Hills to a first-place finish against West Bloomfield, Birmingham United and Troy Jan. 14, earning first-place in the all-around.

“They have been doing a really great job,” Chapman said. “Taryn, especially, has been a really great leader, leading by example in the gym. All three (captains) have been very welcoming to the newcomers.”

Bloomfield Hills’ success carried over to a team-high score for the season against Plymouth High School Jan. 19, earning a 129.925 team score. Bloomfield Hills scored a season-high on beam and bars at the meet.

Led by a slew of freshmen talent, the newly adjusted high school gymnasts have made an instant impact for Bloomfield Hills.

Spagna said the dynamic between experienced and inexperienced gymnasts was a challenge at first, but the newcomers have adjusted well.

“I think it was definitely a challenge because we had a lot of people this year that have never done gymnastics before, which is new,” Spagna said. “In past years, everyone kind of had some experience. This year, we had people that had never done this at all, which is kind of crazy, but we’re definitely working on getting them into the sport. I think they’re having a good time. Even with the freshmen that had done gymnastics before, it’s hard to train them to get used to high school. They’re getting used to it now, and I think everyone is having a good time.”

Freshmens Sophia Cooperman, Layla Kallivayalil and Lainey Socha headline the young core.

Cooperman will play a vital role in the all-around, while Kallivayalil will have a primary focus on bars and beam.

Saroken said Cooperman’s adjustment to the high school level has exceeded expectations.

“She (Sophia) has definitely stepped up to take the place that some of the seniors left behind, and she’s a freshman, and she’s already twisting on floor and just hard skills on every event,” Saroken said. “She also does all-around, and she came in really strong and didn’t have many fears. That’s helped us a lot.”

In her first year in gymnastics, Socha is blossoming as a reliable gymnast for Bloomfield Hills.

Spagna said that not only are her skills getting better, but Socha’s confidence has been key to her success as well.

“Lainey (Socha) is another one of our freshmen, and she had never competed in gymnastics before,” Spagna said. “She really stepped into the competition and has been pretty natural. She’s been great for filling in whenever we need an extra person on an event, and she’s always ready to go.”

Sophomore Mia Bragman, who was a reliable scorer for Bloomfield Hills last season, has progressed in her second year.

Chapman said Bragman has really come into her own this season, emerging as one of the top scorers on the team in vault.

“She has some new skills on floor, so her scores on floor has been a lot better,” Chapman said. ”She’s been steady on bar, and she’s probably our highest scorer on vault.”

While the seniors make their mark on this year’s squad, the 2022 senior class continues to make an impact.

With Gilcher and Noettl joining the coaching staff this season, Saroken said it made the team feel a little more comfortable facing the loss of the seniors.

“Especially the captains last year, they led the team in a good way,” Saroken said. “It helped build the base for our team this year, because a lot of the team was here last year too. I think they did inspire leadership skills and ideas for the team. We still have two of them as our coaches now, so they still live up to the leadership role. It’s not like we were losing all four, because we still have two.”

The challenge moving forward will be, as it has been in the past, beam.

With Noettl, who finished second in beam at regionals, a part of the coaching staff, hopefully, Bloomfield Hills will improve on beam toward the end of the season before the regional meet.

“The obstacle is always beam,” Spagna said. “One person falls, and then everyone starts to fall, and then the next and the next. We’re working on it. One day, we’ll all stay on beam.”