Gymnastics: Heather Gonyea is Conant’s lone soaring Oriole

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes in the vault during a meet hosted at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heather Gonyea of Conant competes alongside the Keene High gymnastics team at the Keene Family YMCA on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/26/2022 2:58:22 PM
Modified: 1/26/2022 2:57:04 PM

She might be the only Oriole soaring through the air, high above the beams and bars and mats, but Heather Gonyea has a whole team in orange and black behind her. Conant’s lone independent gymnast is in her final season competing and practicing alongside Keene, and the senior Oriole said the Blackbirds have taken her under their wings, so to speak.

“They’re just always family,” Gonyea said. “We’re always laughing, always having fun, everyone’s encouraging me. I never feel like I’m lonely or by myself at all – I feel like I’m basically part of their team.”

While older sister Elizabeth jumped right onto the Conant basketball team when the family moved to Rindge from Alaska, Heather found that her winter sport of choice was not an option at her new school. But thanks to some maneuvering by then-athletic director Dave Springfield, Gonyea linked up with Keene to practice with them at the YMCA and follow their meet schedule starting in 2019. 

It was an easy sell for Keene head coach Amy Ballou; after all, she’d been in the exact same situation as a student-athlete in high school at Monadnock and wound up as an independent gymnast paired up with Keene.

“I thank Keene so much for allowing me to be the “Husky Blackbird” when I was in high school,” Ballou said, “and I’m so glad I was able to give back and be able to have her come out with us. And as you can see, she’s one of the team.”

If you don’t know better, Gonyea blends right in with the Blackbirds, the avian imagery on her orange-and-black leotard nearly identical, with just a bit of a twist and “CONANT” down the shoulder in half-inch lettering. That’s before she hits the mat, of course. Once she’s in action, Gonyea has a style all her own. Gymnastic styles run the gamut, from the impossibly tiny high-fliers to the energetic dynamos to the gazelle-like elegant dancers.

Gonyea is none of those.

“She’s just a really powerful gymnast,” Ballou said. “If you watched her on floor, you know. It looks like she has springs in her legs – the spring floor gives you some, but she goes that extra, has that extra height and extra amplitude on everything. So she’s definitely a power gymnast, which is great to see.”

Gonyea’s season was shortened this winter thanks to a positive COVID-19 test as the schedule began; Friday’s meet was her first true competition of the year, and she was a little shaky, with rust and nerves shedding her off the balance beam briefly. But with two more meets set before the state championship on Feb. 12, she should have time to round back into form and potentially make it back to the regional championship (she qualified in vault back in 2020, but the championships were canceled due to COVID-19).

“If she hits at states, I can see her being qualifying for regionals again,” Ballou said. “I think she definitely has the potential to shine in all-around and everything else.”

No matter what happens, Gonyea will be out representing her school and adopted team proudly while pursuing the sport she’s loved since she was a child.

“Gymnastics just keeps me fit and keeps me going,” Gonyea said. “It’s just amazing. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s such a great feeling, and knowing that I’m a senior and I’m going to be off soon, it’s kind of sad, because gymnastics is my happy place. I just love gymnastics.”

 Gonyea and the Blackbirds are home at the Keene YMCA Friday night and travel to Go ffstown on Feb. 7.


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