CEDAR CITY — Gymnastics can be a stealthy sport. After all, it teaches life skills and core athletics under the awesome guise of having fun.
“Gymnastics covers every physical aspect, and then mental, too,” said Coral Peak gymnastics coach Beth Julian. “It takes discipline, strength, flexibility, coordination. It’s great preparation for other sports in the future as well. Of course the kids are just out there having fun.”
Julian, who has been coaching gymnastic for more than 35 years, brought several of her young gymnasts to the Utah Summer Games Friday and Saturday to “get their feet wet.”
“We don’t start competing, the regular season, until the end of August,” she said. “Today I brought two 7-year-olds, a 9-year-old and a 10-year-old. This is a good start for us.”
Several other gymnastics schools brought larger groups, including Barefoot Gymnastics from St. George and Southern Utah Gymnastics Academy in Cedar City. And even though the competition was fierce, it’s clear that fun was the word of the day.
“It’s so much fun flipping in the air and learning other new skills,” said 11-year-old Madi Giles, who lives in St. George and trains at Barefoot. “You get to do a lot more stuff than any other sport.”
Giles, who has been involved in gymnastics since she was three, was one of the top gymnasts at the event, which took place at SUU’s Centrum Arena.
“My mom used to teach at Barefoot and on Thursdays we got to go out in the gym and do some gymnastics and stuff,” Giles said. “I just decided to keep doing it because I loved it.”
Teammate Nikka Methena, another of the top gymnasts at the USG, echoed Giles’ love of the sport.
“My grandma used to say that she wanted me to be in gymnastics so much,” Mathena said. “A few years later my mom asked me if I wanted to be in gymnastics and I said yes. I loved it right away.”
The two-day event, which featured full Olympic-style events (vault, uneven parallel bars, beam and floor exercise), concluded early in the afternoon Saturday. Event director Barney Gwilliam, who also runs Barefoot Gymnastics with his wife Kathy, said about 100 gymnasts competed in this year’s Summer Games.
“Girls gymnastics throughout the state of Utah is going great,” he said. “This is a fun meet for the girls, with their season over already. They just like to come down and have a fun time. It’s just the kids that are doing it, no adults here, though we do have some 13- and 14-year olds. We have a great tradition in the state. The sport of gymnastics is just a great sport, the greatest out there for developing coordination, for boys and girls.”
So was there a future collegiate or Olympic gymnast out on the Centrum floor this weekend? Perhaps.
“I for sure want to do this in college,” said Giles, who had the top all-around score among all the Level 6 age groups of 34.450. “I want to do this my whole life. I’d love to be a gymnast at the University of Utah.”
Results (pdf): Summer Games Results
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