West Babylon gymnast Olivia Stuart performs on the balance beam...

West Babylon gymnast Olivia Stuart performs on the balance beam in her match against Hampton Bays on Oct. 16, 2023. Credit: George A Faella

West Babylon gymnastics has rallied around three words: small but mighty.

The team has just six gymnasts in its first season since 2018. But after Thursday's win, the Eagles are 9-1 overall and tied with Hauppauge for first place in Suffolk III at 6-0.

“I’m not doubting the girls’ ability, they’re all amazing, but … going into it, I was definitely scared,” coach Aly Rebehn said. “But then that first meet, I was like, ‘Oh no, we got this.’”

Rebehn was a two-time all-county gymnast for West Babylon before graduating in 2016. She coached West Babylon Middle School gymnastics the past two years, and enough girls wanted to compete this year to bring back the high school team.

The push to restart the school’s program began with junior all-around gymnast Olivia Stuart, who competed as an independent last year.

Stuart practiced with Babylon High School and competed in its meets last year, though each of her results only counted individually. Stuart is incredibly happy to be a part of a team now,  and took on a leadership role as the seasoned high school gymnast.

“I kind of help explain the rules sometimes, and I’m always cheering super loud for them,” Stuart said.

The other girls on the team are senior Lauren Kutchens, junior Lindsey Kutchens, freshman Leah Kutchens and eighth-graders Skylar Fitzpatrick and Tianna Rampersant.

Though the team is new, the girls are experienced outside of school. Lindsey Kutchens is a Level 10 gymnast, the highest level a gymnast can reach in the USA Women’s Development program. Stuart is a Level 9 and Lauren Kutchens is a Level 8. Rebehn believes three or four of the girls will make it to the individual county meet on Oct. 30. 

West Babylon has faced teams twice its size, and having only six girls presents unique challenges if an illness or injury occurs. The Eagles also had to take a zero in an event against Babylon, a meet they won on Sept. 27, and girls are pushed into new situations.

Rebehn said that Stuart and Lauren Kutchens have stepped up on bars and vault, respectively, to avoid getting zeroes despite previously being “petrified” of the events.

“She remembers standing on the low bar getting ready to jump to the high bar, and she talks to herself because it’s just a really big jump for her,” Stuart's mom, Anna, said. “Olivia is a whopping 4-foot-10.”

Stuart competed on bars for the first time this season in a Sept. 13 non-league meet against West Islip, and she has been competing on bars ever since.

Rebehn recalled walking into the team’s first meet and hearing the opposition murmur about their size and an ensuing easy win. But West Babylon laughed it off after beating them, with Rebehn proclaiming they are “small but mighty.”

Stuart said the team has frequently talked about that mantra ever since.

“We always just emphasize," she said, "that we have to be there for the team."

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