Article Contributed by
At the Lakewood YMCA, a girl stands beneath a looming set of uneven bars. She grips the lower bar with her hands, swings forward, and brings her toes up to the sky. As her legs whip back down, her tiny arms strain to push her body up and over. The second her torso crests the bar, a crowd of on-looking girls bounce off the floor in a burst of squeals and applause. She’s just completed her first kip.
According to Katie Clark, head coach of the Lakewood YMCA Starz gymnastics team, this scene is the perfect illustration of what her team is all about: hard work and sportsmanship. They are two traits that will be put to good use during the team’s first home meet of the season, scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17 at the Lakewood YMCA gym.
The meet is the first of two home competitions that the Starz will host this year. An approximate 150 gymnasts will convene at the Lakewood YMCA to compete, with teams visiting from Oil City, Meadville and Corry. Clark says that Lakewood itself will have 36 gymnasts representing at levels two through six on all events—beam, bars, floor, and vault—a record number for the team.
“We’ve basically doubled the size of our team competing this year,” Clark said.
It’s not just the team that has seen a boost in numbers, however. Enrollment in the overall gymnastics program at Lakewood has skyrocketed as well, with over 150 students currently participating in classes designed for toddlers, teens, boys, girls, gymnasts and tumblers. Besides the diverse class offerings, Clark attributes the program’s increase this year to the talent and dedication of her coaching staff.
“We have really good, solid coaches,” Clark said. “I think that every coach brings something different to the team—everybody has their own personalities and their own coaching styles. I think it all goes together really well.”
The coaches are obviously doing something right, because not only has the team grown in quantity this year, it has also increased in quality. In July, the Lakewood Starz team was able to send five gymnasts to the National Gymnastics Championship in Long Beach, CA. Every single girl placed on at least one event. And while gymnastics may be a sport with a highly individual focus, Clark says that her girls are still very much a family.
“The team is really supportive towards each other,” she said. “They get excited when the other girls succeed, not just themselves.”
The Lakewood Starz’s upcoming meet on Dec. 17 is open for public spectators. They will host their second home meet the first weekend in February, a two-day event that will feature nine gymnastic teams.
To read more of Cortney Linnecke’s creative and informative contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.