Gymnastics Isn’t Just for the Olympics: Local Competitive Gymnasts Head to the State Competition
August seems like an eternity from now. And Brazil feels worlds away. For those who just can’t wait for the Summer 2016 Olympics, rest assured, we have talent right here in the Rogue Valley. Our competitive gymnastics community is small, but mighty. We caught up with Southern Oregon Gymnastics Academy (SOGA) in Medford as the competitive season draws to a close. SOGA has two youth competing in the Oregon State Gymnastics Competition, with the Compulsory State Competition taking place April 22-24 at Marist High School in Eugene.
“We have a lot of great, young talented gymnasts,” says Kate Ramsdell, coach at SOGA for over two years. Ramsdell was a competitive gymnast herself, competing in Florida for seven years and reaching Level 9.
Gymnasts range in skill levels from Level 1 (that first successful cartwheel) to Level 10 (“considered elite, with very advanced skills,” says Ramsdell). Levels are gained at approximately one level per year in the lower levels, and as requirements are met. And the events are exactly what we see on TV every four years: “pommel, rings, uneven bars, high bar, vault and floor for guys and uneven bars, vaults, beam and floor for girls,” she adds.
The scoring is individual, and then individual scores add up to make a team score. SOGA has been competing all over Oregon and Northern California since last December, with the season finishing up with state competitions in March and April. SOGA had 10 competitive female gymnasts this year, with 10-year-old Addison Lawson and 12-year-old Aynaelyssya Thomas competing at the state level. SOGA boasts former 1992 Barcelona Olympian gymnast Ilian Alexandrov and former National Champion of Bulgaria gymnast Polina Stancheva, and they are able to coach through Level 10.
“I get to build incredible bonds with these girls,” says Ramsdell. “We can relate to them as athletes, not just coaches. Relating to gymnasts is just as important as coaching them.”
Of course, not everyone can be or wants to be a competitive gymnast, so SOGA, along with other institutions around the Valley like Motion Matrix in Grants Pass (which also has a competitive team), Flipside in Ashland and YMCAs in all three cities, offer recreational gymnastics to kids starting as early as 18 months old. For most, the first class is complementary, and open gym days can be attended by non-members for a nominal fee.
Southern Oregon Gymnastics Academy
3001 Samike Drive #112, Medford
2051 NW Hawthorne Avenue, Grants Pass