Haley Gould, 17, a senior at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School, likes to flip out – but in a good way, as she said she can do 40 backhand springs consecutively.
According to the World Records Academy, the world champion is Chelsey Kipping, who has completed 32 backhand springs in a row as of July 2010. Gould would like to become the new record holder.
Of course, one wonders how dizzy she gets after doing so many.
“I close my eyes and open them at the very end when I come up,” she said. “It’s crazy because sometimes I don’t feel good.”
But the rest of the time Gould loves every minute of it. As one of two co-captains of her cheerleading team, she revs up fans at football and basketball games with her unique gymnast skills.
“People get pumped up when she does it,” said Gould’s teammate and best friend, Kelsey Chamberlain, 17, also a senior.
Another senior, cheerleader co-captain Haley Gifford, 17, appreciates Gould’s spirited nature, as the girls represent a competition team in addition to cheering for school sports.
“She likes having someone to compete against because there’s no fun without competition,” Gifford said. “She’s a big part of the squad.”
When opposing teams see Gould at tournaments, her presence alone causes a whirl all it’s own. Last week, she attended a basketball game at East Greenwich High and their cheerleaders approached her.
“They asked me if I was the girl who did all the back flips and asked me what grade I’m in,” she said. “When I told them I’m a senior, they said, ‘Oh, maybe we’ll win next year.’”
Being recognized isn’t only fun for Gould, it also helps build her confidence and motivates her to achieve her goals.
“It makes me feel good,” she said. “Kelsey inspires me a lot and always encourages me. If someone says they can do 30, she’ll say, ‘My best friend can do 35.’ My mom definitely encourages me, too.”
Her mother, Diane Botham, said while it sometimes worries her that Gould will injure herself, overall she’s “super proud.”
“It’s pretty incredible,” said Botham. “She won a contest at Mount Hope High School last month when she completed 26 backhand springs in a row. She would have done more but she ran out of room. One kid even asked her for her autograph.”
There was a time that Gould was afraid to attempt backhand springs, said Botham. Now, that is a distant memory.
“As soon as she takes off her jacket at games the crowds know she’s about to do backhand springs,” Botham said. “She tosses out a number to the crowd and then does more.”
Gould said she figured out how to do backhand springs on her own after taking a few years of gymnastics. At the age of 10, she realized she could do several in a row.
She began gymnastics classes as a toddler at Seaside Dance and Gymnastics in Westerly and continued at Warwick Dance and Gymnastics when she moved to Warwick the summer before eighth grade.
At Gorton Junior High, she joined the cheerleading squad and by the time she entered high school she became a member of the gymnastics team.
But when she saw her former cheerleading teammates perform at pep rallies, she missed being with them and switched back to cheerleading her sophomore year.
“I had to come back,” she said.
Other than cheering and gymnastics, Gould played softball her sophomore year and also used to help out with children’s classes at Seaside, as well as Warwick Dance and Gymnastics.
She said she was thrilled when her former coaches at Warwick Dance and Gymnastics told her she reminded them of American Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, the 2008 Olympic balance beam gold medallist and all-around and floor exercise silver medallist. Johnson was also the 2007 all-around World Champion, and the 2007 and 2008 U.S. all-around champion.
“She’s always been my favorite because she’s more of a powerful gymnast and everyone else is gentle,” Gould said.
While she hasn’t decided where she’d like to attend college, Gould said Boise State University offered her a cheerleading scholarship. No matter where she ends up she wants to major in sports medicine, as well as business, and open her own gymnastics studio in the future.
“That’s my goal,” she said.