High bars, pommel horse, rings and floor routines. It all adds up to a Gymnastics meet, but Saturday was no ordinary meet. it was the Junior Olympics Men’s Regional Gymnastics Competition. Winners advance to the national competition in Reno, Nevada.
About 160 gymnasts came from across the Midwest to compete for a chance at the national competition. Coaches said about a third of them qualify each year.
The stakes inspire confidence in some and spark the nerves in others.
“I’m pretty nervous,” said gymnast Alex Schipper. “There’s a lot of really good guys out there, and I’m happy to be here because these guys are all really good.”
This is the first time Fort Wayne has hosted the regional competition and so far, reviews look good.
“It ranks right up there,” said Kevin Chope, a team coach from Illinois. “I mean, this is a great convention center. We’ve got great walking. The hotels are fantastic. So, it’s been a great place for us to be.”
Teams were in town from Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and from across Indiana.
There were five different levels of competition this weekend with the highest competing Sunday afternoon at 5:00. All competitions were in the Grand Wayne Center.
Most of the athletes have been working with the same coaches most of their lives. That, for some, means just as much as success in competition.
“It’s the best part of the job,” said Coach Chope. “We have a lot of these kids that we’ve had since they were six, seven years old, and now they’re 18,19, graduating and going off to college. Seeing that progression as they grow and mature…that’s the best part of the job. That’s teaching, and we love doing it.”
The national competition is in three weeks in Reno, Nevada.