After the nervous jitters fade, Braintree High gymnast Jake Barrett visualizes his routine. He imagines the composition and execution that is required to give him an edge.
“I see myself doing it,” said Barrett. “I’m mentally prepared when it comes to my time to do my routine. Then, my mind goes blank when I’m performing, but I know exactly what I’m supposed to do.”
The 17-year-old senior doesn’t specialize in one event. His focus is on the all-around competition, which includes all six events: vault, parallel bars, pommel horse, still rings, horizontal bars, and floor exercise. According to Barrett, he trains 30 hours per week at the Ellis School of Gymnastics in Braintree year-round. The dedication to gymnastics made him quit all other sports, including baseball, basketball, and soccer.
“I stopped doing all other sports when I found gymnastics,” said Barrett. “I needed to do so to fully pursue the sport.”
His preparation and commitment are pushing him to gymnastic glory. At the 2017 state tournament, he placed first in the all-around competition and in still rings, and had top six finishes in the other five events.
“I didn’t know any of my scores, and had no idea that I was winning,” said Barrett. “When I finally found out, it was a rush of emotion. It was truly incredible and probably the best moment I’ve ever experienced. I treasure that day.”
He was named the gymnast of the year on the Globe’s All-Scholastic team after helping the Wamps to a second-place team finish at the state meet.
“Jake really inspires the underclassmen,” said senior teammate Josh Van Alfen. “They watch his amazing routines and it pushes them to aspire to be the kind of gymnast that he is. He also has great energy and is obviously amazing to have competition-wise.”
Seventh-year coach Rich Ellis also is impressed by Barrett’s talent and growth.
“Jake began gymnastics later than most,” said Ellis, whose family runs the club in town. “Most gymnasts start at a young age, while he started in high school. His progress is amazing, he doesn’t have a weak event. If he doesn’t miss any of his routines and makes little mistakes, I believe he can place first in all-around again this year.”
Barrett will show if he has what it takes at the state tournament Friday, Feb. 9, at Newton North High School. However, he said that a greater achievement would be if the Wamps win the team competition.
“I always want to win my individual routines, but having the team win it all is first on my list,” he said. “It would be a great accomplishment and we have a really good team this year. I think that we have a shot.”
It would give the Wamps their first state crown since 2011. The program has 19 state championship wins overall, and Ellis was involved in four of the titles.
The Braintree High alum was a member of the team from 1972 to 1976. That squad — which included 1976 US Olympic bronze medalist Peter Korman — won four straight state titles under the direction of Joe Schuhwerk . Ellis first coached the Braintree High boys from 1983 to 1985, and returned in 2011.
“Coach Ellis’s number one attribute is that he’s supportive,” said Barrett. “It doesn’t matter how much talent that you have, he is always willing to work with each gymnast. He encourages all team members in every aspect.”
“He is one of the smartest coaches,” said Van Alfen. “He knows every routine and works with each athlete to guide them to better their performance. Above all, he emphasizes the team aspect of the sport and just wants us to have fun.”
Ellis has high hopes for the team this year, but there is an obstacle that the Wamps need to surpass to get that 20th state championship. That’s the combined Newton North and Newton South team, which beat out Braintree to win the title last year.
“We are very close behind the reigning champions Newton North and South,” said Barrett. “I think our team is strong enough to place first at the state meet.”Andrew Higginbottom can be reached at email@example.com.