The story of the 2009 Newton High School gymnastics team was one Hollywood movie moguls would have trouble coming up with.


The story of the 2009 Newton High School gymnastics team was one Hollywood movie moguls would have trouble coming up with.

Facing the loss of more than $1.2 million in state funding, the Newton USD 373 school board proposed cutting $50,000 from the athletic department budget. Among the cuts was the elimination of the gymnastics program, one of the first sports offered to girls at Newton.

Other cuts included boys’ diving, easy since there were no divers expected to compete this year.

The number of schools offering gymnastics had been on the decline for the past decade. Newton’s nearest competition was in Emporia. The remaining teams were all in Johnson and Douglas counties in the Kansas City metro area.

The school board decided to give the gymnasts the option of competing with the provision the team raise $11,000. The team managed to raise the money needed to compete this season.

The Railers finished at or near the top in all of its meets this season, taking second in the regional meet to qualify for state.

The Railers hosted the state meet. An illegal inquiry by the coach of Shawnee Mission Northwest cost that team a point deduction putting Newton in a tie for the state title with Lawrence Free State. Each team scored 103.525 points, giving Newton its first state title since 1976. Sophomore Riley Roberts won the individual title on the floor exercises. Coach JoAnne Thaw, who has coached at Newton for 35 years, received the Pathfinder Award from the National Association for Women and Girls in Sports.