This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published May 23, 2020
Raquel Farray made a meaningful contribution to the Valley Regional gymnastics team this year. A freshman, Raquel picked up competitive gymnastics for the first time and, through her fearlessness and determination, became an integral participant for the Warriors at the Shoreline Conference Championship.
Raquel helped Valley claim the conference title by turning in a gutsy performance at the Shoreline meet. She also plays for the Valley volleyball squad and would have been rowing with the Warriors’ crew had the spring season not been canceled due to COVID-19.
Even though she entered her freshman year without much competitive experience, Raquel started doing gymnastics at a young age. Unfortunately, the first studio that Raquel attended closed, but she practiced as much as she could at home, and was pushed to keep up with the sport by her longtime friend and current teammate, fellow freshman Julie Hartt.
“I did gymnastics when I was younger, but the gym I went to closed down. So, I had to stop. I did practice on my own time, though,” Raquel says. “Julie Hartt was on the team when it closed, and she helped me continue gymnastics at home. We went to school together. We were still friends, and she had mats and stuff to practice on.”
When Raquel learned that there was a gymnastics team at Valley Regional, she knew that she wanted to get back on the floor. However, after having been away from a structured gymnastics routine for so long, Raquel felt a little anxious about joining the Warriors.
“Once I found out there was a high school team, I wanted to do it. I was nervous, because I know a lot of the other girls had been doing it all along,” says Raquel. “I was really nervous at first, but I picked up a lot of stuff quickly. I didn’t know the warmups or how everything worked, but as practices went on, I got my skills. My teammates were really nice and encouraging, and that really helped me, too.”
Raquel wasn’t afraid to try new things in her first season with the team, and that fearless attitude helped her improve in every event. Even with minimal experience, Raquel just went for it.
“At one meet, I was practicing my new floor routine for the first time ever in a narrow hallway,” Raquel says. “In the vault, you literally have to throw yourself at this stationary object. So, with gymnastics, you can’t be scared to do it.”
During the season, Raquel went from being proficient on the floor event to learning all four events. That was important for the Warriors when they competed at the Shoreline meet, because of all the injuries they had on their roster.
“Before Shorelines, I had only competed in vault a couple of other times. At first, I was mostly doing floor. Then, I was competing bars and beam, as well. I started doing vault last,” says Raquel, who lives in Deep River. “At Shorelines, I had to compete on vault, and it was nerve-wracking. That ended up being what I scored the best on. I don’t really know why I did better at Shorelines. I guess I was less nervous. I remember feeling really nervous, but somehow calm at the same time.”
Like the rest of her teammates, Raquel was surprised when she heard the announcement that Valley had won the Shoreline title. Not only was it surprising that the Warriors scored so many points as a group, but heading into the event, they weren’t even sure if they were going to qualify at all.
“We actually thought we didn’t qualify as a team. We thought we needed five to qualify,” Raquel says. “When they announced Valley, we were all so surprised. In the car going there, we were talking about not being able to win and, on the car ride back, we were all having a great time. At first, we were confused, but then we were really happy when we started to realize it.”
Valley gymnastics Head Coach Carl Cavrell thought that Raquel showed tremendous resolve in the way she trained and approached her routines. Raquel had to learn a lot in a short span of time, and she never faltered.
“I would say that Raquel is extremely persistent. She would not give up until she could get whatever she was working on. She wasn’t a high-level gymnast when she started, but she really put in a great effort,” Cavrell says. “She wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t intimidated. She went out there and gave us enough in four events to get that conference title. That rarely happens with a kid with little gymnastics experience. It’s tough to even get up on the bars, let alone be able to get up there and compete well enough to win a Shoreline title.”
In the fall, Raquel was part of another conference title with the Valley volleyball squad. Although Raquel wasn’t on the court against Hale-Ray in the Shoreline final, she enjoyed every second of the Warriors’ big victory. This spring, Raquel was ready to try out a new sport with the Valley crew.
“It was a lot different winning Shorelines in volleyball than gymnastics. For volleyball, we had to go to five games in the final. It was so close. I remember every single thing that happened in that last play,” says Raquel. “Crew was going to be a first-time thing. My mom Brigitta wanted me to do it, and I thought it would be cool. I didn’t know much about it, but I was ready to learn.”
Raquel is always ready to learn, just like she learned how to surf when she visited family in the Canary Islands. Unfortunately, it will be a while before Raquel can head back across the Atlantic with COVID-19 having changed everyone’s travel plans. Right now, Raquel is keeping up with her gymnastics training at home. Raquel hopes to hit the waves once again this summer and then get back on the volleyball court in the fall if everything returns to normal.
“I’m hoping we’re open by summer. A lot of the things I was going to do this summer, I can’t do anymore. My dad’s whole side of the family lives on the Canary Islands, and so when we go there, I do a lot of surfing and stuff like that. I’ve been trying to convince my mom to drive to Rhode Island so I can surf, since Long Island blocks all the waves,” Raquel says. “I have a gymnastics mat, and I practice in the grass. If we’re back at school by fall, I’ll definitely do volleyball. I miss it.”