Flip of Courage: Kat Poulopoulos and Her Gymnastics Journey

It takes courage to flip through the air.

Gymnasts do this every day.

Whether it’s flipping over the table on vault, soaring on the uneven bars, balancing on the 4-inch beam, or tumbling across the floor, Kat Poulopoulos shows that courage in every apparatus.

“Gymnastics has taught me so many important lessons. It’s taught me determination, resilience, amazing time management, and that anything is possible with hard work and commitment,” Poulopoulos said. “After spending so much time in the gym with the same teammates and coaches through the years, I can say they’ve all become my family.”

The MADS (co-op of Medfield, Ashland and Dover-Sherborn) gymnast from Medfield proved her worth earlier this year at the MIAA South Sectional Tournament in Algonquin, where she put on a show for her MADS family.

The meet took place on Feb. 22, and she had plans to go away over February break, meaning she wouldn’t get any practices for an entire week before the meet. She arranged to come back a day earlier so she could compete.

“That was the best decision I could have made,” Poulopoulos said.

Poulopoulos’ coach, Jennifer Libin, helped her prepare the morning before sectionals to make sure the meet would go smoothly.

It certainly did.

Poulopoulos scored a nine or above on every event, one of a few gymnasts at the sectional tourney to do so. She finished with an all-around score of 37.05, which was fifth best on the day.

“I don’t think I ever had more fun competing in my entire life,” Poulopoulos said. “Everyone was going crazy that day and I think I even found myself smiling mid-routine on every event. I ended up scoring one of my highest all-arounds and I ended my MADS career on the highest note possible.” 

She began her gymnastics journey when she was five years old.

“Kat was always full of energy, loving the monkey bars more than anything, and doing flips on the bed at home. So, gymnastics was a perfect fit,” her mother, Sophia Poulopoulos, said. “She did so well in her recreational class that she was placed on the team. Of course, she loved watching all the older girls and couldn’t wait to learn all the skills they were doing.”

From there, she joined and competed in club gymnastics.

“Being a high-level gymnast, club gymnastics was very demanding,” Poulopoulos said. “My club coaches were never really there for the whole idea of me doing MADS gymnastics.”

She then made the decision to not join the MADS gymnastics squad her freshman year, so that she could put all her time into club. But in her sophomore year, Coach Libin and two former MADS gymnasts approached Poulopoulos at a club meet and sold the idea of joining the high school co-op team.

“I have no regrets,” Poulopoulos said. “I didn’t get the chance to compete my junior year because I was chasing the college gymnastics dream at that point. But I joined again for the best season of my life, senior year, after realizing college gymnastics was not for me.”

During her sophomore year, Poulopoulos earned third place at the MIAA State Individual championships, and then finished in eighth place at the MIAA South Sectional Tournament. Then, two years later, she returned to the South Sectionals and claimed fifth place all-around.

Her day began with a 9.700 on the vault, which stood for second-best on the day. She followed up on the uneven bars with a double-back dismount for a 9.150 score.

In the next time around the rotation, Poulopulos scored a 9.200 with a back layout step out on beam.

And to wrap up the day, the all-around gymnast performed a roundoff back-handspring full on the floor routine to score a 9.000.

“Watching her perform at South Sectionals and seeing her shine doing what she has always loved to do, I was overcome with emotion,” her mother said. “I am so lucky to have been a spectator on her amazing journey.”

“Kat was amazing at sectionals and I’m so glad she absolutely shined,” her coach said. “Kat’s high school journey was one I was so happy to be a part of and watching her grow even stronger as not only an athlete, but as a person and a teammate.”

After finishing her senior year with an average all-around score of 36.95, Poulopoulos planned to wrap up her club career. She was also invited to the Senior National team that was set to compete in Ft. Myers, Florida in May. But both were canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“It is heartbreaking knowing that us seniors competed our last gymnastics meet and had no idea it was our last. Going forward though, I will cherish all the memories and friendships I’ve made from high school gymnastics,” Poulopulos said. “I couldn’t be more thankful. I have plans to attend UMass Amherst as a biology major in the fall, and I’m so excited to see what my future holds.”

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