Youth gymnasts seek perfect marks

A limber group of youth gymnasts is beginning to hone its competitive skills at Gorge Gymnastics this fall.

The Level 5-6 competition team, which consists of 10 gymnasts ages 7-14, has started the season with three third places, and will go for another top finish Friday at the “Gym-Nest” in Hillsboro.

“This is our best start in years,” said Gorge Gymnastics director Amber Bardin. “The program is really starting to take off. We have a terrific coaching staff that knows what it will take to get these girls to the next level.”

Led by long-time head coach Steve Roney and assistants Candy Smith and Rebecca McDonald, the Gorge Gymnastics team has earned tremendous marks at its first three meets — the American Elite meet Sept. 7 in Troutdale, the Judges Open Sept. 14 at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, and the Sunburst Invitational in Oregon City on Sept. 21.

The team has relied on strong performances by Jena Viemeister, who won the all-around competition at American Elite and the Judges Open, and took third at Sunburst; Megan McHale, who finished sixth at both the American Elite and Judges Open and eighth at Sunburst; and Katie Rawson, who finished fifth at both the American Elite and Judges Open, and seventh at Sunburst.

Also performing well for the Gorge Gymnastics team have been Alexa Boldt (fourth at Judges Open), Amy Hay (fourth at Sunburst) and Alisandra Denton (third at Sunburst).

“The first meet is kind of scary, but after that, it’s fun,” said Hay, an 11-year-old Level 5 who has been involved in gymnastics for three years. “We have a really good team this year and the coaches make it a lot of fun.”

Also competing on the team and showing tons of progress this fall are Madison Eaton, Maddie Schubert, Jenica Christman and Kristen Kawachi.

The gymnastics team works out a total of 11 hours a week, and much of the time is spent trying to improve upon what they already know.

“You have to work at it all the time to get better,” said Kawachi, a 9-year-old Level 5 gymnast who started in the recreational gymnastics program. “It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.”

Bardin said one of the reasons the competitive program is taking off so much this year is because of the youth movement.

“We had a really great summer and the gymnasts have been progressing at a steady pace,” she said. “But our biggest thing has been team-building. The encouragement from one another has really helped the team thrive.”

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