Cranford High School Gymnastics Coach Michele Hulse has had one heck of a season. Her team finished with a 10-0 record, but there's more.
"We set, broke, and reset the school record of 109.05," Hulse said. "We were consistently ranked in the top 10 in the state. The girls truly did a wonderful job. We won the Cougar Invitational and placed second at the Union County Tournament and the North 2 State Sectional meet. We also had outstanding individual performances from Mary Kate Walch and Alexandra Puryear."
Walch won both the county and sectional meets and advanced to states where she placed 11th in the all around and seventh on beam.Puryear won the Cougar Invitational meet and placed fifth at sectionals. She advanced to the state finals and placed 12th on floor. We also had the most girls qualify for the state sectional meet as individual competitors. In addition to Walch and Puryear, the following girls also qualified for sectionals: Sara LoBue, Casey Sciascia, Erin McAuliffe, Emily Grable, Bryanna Grant and Kailyn Grant.
Hulse has been coaching high school gymnastics since 1995 when she started at Parsippany High School. She came to coach in Cranford in 1997. A Cranford High School graduate, Hulse was on the gymnastics team. She graduated from West Chester University with a double major in early childhood education and elementary education and she obtained her certification as a Teacher of the Handicapped from Kean Univeristy. Hulse also competed for West Chester's gymnastics team. She went on to obtain her master's degree in Special Education with certification as a Learning Disabilities Teacher-Consultant from Rutgers University.
Cranford Patch asked the coach a few questions about his team, coaching style and goals for the future.
What was your proudest moment as a coach?
It is a toss up this season. I was so proud of the support, sportsmanship, and team spirit the girls displayed at the Cougar Invitational. The girls stuck together and realized if they were going to come out on top they were going to do it together. I was also so proud of the girls for attaining a team score of 109.05 at our county meet. This set a school record and is an impressive score.
What do you say to the gymnasts when they're feeling nervous or if they're having a rough meet?
I try to get the girls pumped up when they are a bit nervous and let them know I have confidence in them. I tell them to take a breath and the meet is just like practice. Then I tell them they've got it and to go get it.
If you weren't coaching, what would you be doing?
I am a Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant on a Child Study Team. I guess I never thought about not coaching. Sixteen years of doing it, and I still love it!
What inspires you?
The girls' excitement can be infectious. When I see the girls' routines and team performance come together, I get so excited. I see the girls' hard work and dedication, and it inspires me.
What three professional athletes would you most like to meet and have lunch with and why?
1. Derek Jeter - My husband and son are big Yankees fans, and my daughter shares the same birthday. I feel like Derek Jeter is the epitome of good sportsmanship and respect that immensely. As a parent I am always trying to instill good sportsmanship and help my children develop this skill. Derek Jeter is a good role model for this. 2. Lance Armstrong - I realize there has been some controversy surrounding him, but anyone who beat cancer like he did is worth meeting. Cancer has affected both my family and friends, and Lance Armstrong's Live Strong campaign has been inspirational for so many. 3. Mary Lou Retton - She became the face of gymnastics for a long time, and I would love to hear about her Olympic experience and what she is doing in life after gymnastics.