The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

June 2, 2014

Local gymnasts are Florida bound

SUNBURY — Rolls and thrills are synonymous with Orlando, Fla. But come June 24, the rolls and flips will take on a different meaning.

Six gymnasts from Gym Starz in Sunbury will take in the sights and sounds of Florida while honing familiar skills at the United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs World Championship Invitational in Orlando from June 24 to July 4.

Isabella Ryan, Kyra Stickler, Claudia Morris, Taylor Rothermel, Becca Cook and Rita Moore will make the trip with the support of a club and two experienced coaches behind them.

“It’s exciting to get them there and see how they go through their ups and downs,” said John Campbell, who co-founded the gym with his wife, Beth, in the early 1970s and has continued to develop the skills of young gymnasts.

To qualify for the world championships, a gymnast needs to reach qualifying scores determined by the level at which each athlete competes either in their all-around total or in an individual event; the six athletes who represented Gym Starz at the regional competition in Woodward easily reached the standard.

“It was such a relief to know that they were able to get through (regionals),” John Campbell said. “We took six there and qualified six. That’s what made us really happy.”

With their tickets punched to Florida, attention in the gym is now turned to the opportunity that the young gymnasts have in front of them, both in and out of the gym. While only one gymnast will rise to the top of the podium, each athlete will be able to reap the full benefits of the trip outside of competition, bonding with the other gymnasts through T-shirt trading and karaoke between the teams.

“The kids get a kick out of it,” Beth Campbell said. “It’s a unique atmosphere.”

Aside from meeting and competing against fellow gymnasts from the United States, the gymnasts from Gym Starz will go toe-to-toe with some of the best young athletes from England, Bermuda, Canada and South Africa.

Romania and Germany are due to send teams to the World Championship Invitational starting next year and according to John Campbell, there is a possibility that the event will be held outside of the United States in the future, adding to the cultural immersion for the gymnasts competing.

Beth Campbell added that many gymnasts do not have the chance to test their skills against international competition until high school, providing a potential once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for athletes competing in the World Championship Invitational.

“You have to be really good (to get to that level),” Beth Campbell said.

The hard work athletically for the gymnasts to make the world championships is out of the way, leaving the financial side of the trip as the only hurdle needing to be cleared, an aspect that the club will look to toss aside to make the trip possible, Beth Campbell said.

“We’ll fund-raise our way, which is what we’re trying to do now,” Beth Campbell said. “Every bit helps.”

The gym held a recent auction to offset the costs of the journey while members have started fund-raising efforts online to allow each gymnast to compete.

In the meantime, a group of clearly ecstatic gymnasts are fine-tuning their skills while not quite coming to grips with qualifying, according to Beth Campbell.

“It will (sink in) when they get there,” she said. “Right now, it’s like, ‘Woo hoo.’’’

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