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Black Hills Gymnastics in Lacey recently wrapped up a successful season with impressive showings on a state, regional and national competition stage. Competitive gymnasts at Black Hills Gymnastics train extensively to perfect their craft and a dedicated staff of coaches and trainers work to support these young athletes throughout the season. Almost all the participants in the gym’s competitive programs qualified for the Washington State Championships.

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“At the state competition we had eight all around state champions,” says Bailee Jacka, the Girls XCEL team director at Black Hills Gymnastics. “That’s their scores from all four events, vault, bars, beam and floor. So, all of those scores combined is what leads to the all-around score. So, we had eight all around state champions across the entire program. We have 31 athletes placed in the top three all around at the state competition.”

State champions from Black Hills Gymnastics include Irelyn Rose, Emberly Stone, Destini Hickman, Kennedy O’Byrne, Sadie Mecham, Bentley Pitts, Regan Ward and Isabel Preston.

In addition, 30 Black Hills Gymnastics athletes won State Championships for individual events. Teams also had a strong showing at state, with the Level Three team and Level Four team both placing third, and the Level Seven team and the XCEL bronze team placing second.

Destini Hickman performing a leap on a blue gymnastic floor
Destini Hickman was one of eight athletes from Black Hills Gymnastics to be named all around champions at the state competition. Photo courtesy: Black Hills Gymnastics

Madeline Hartley, at 11-years-old, is the youngest athlete at the XCEL diamond level in the State of Washington to qualify for a state meet.

At the state competition, higher level competitors had the opportunity to qualify for the regional competition, which included athletes from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Hawaii and Alaska. And at the regional competition, Level Nine athletes can qualify for the Western National Championships.

24 athletes from Black Hills Gymnastics who competed at the state competition went on to qualify for the regional competition. Three athletes were named regional all-around champions. Kennedy O’Byrne, a Level Seven, won the regional all around, as well as all four individual events. Level Seven athletes Sadie Mecham and Mika Adams won the all-around as well as three individual events.

For both competitive programs, gymnasts are split into separate categories based on their experience level. For the XCEL program (pictured above), bronze is entry level, up to diamond at the top. The Junior Olympic program has a similar layout, with Level Two through Level Nine. Photo courtesy: Black Hills Gymnastics

10 Black Hills Gymnastics athletes finished in the all-around top three and 14 athletes were named individual event champions at the regional competition.

At the Level 6 Regional Invitational competition, Megan Sondgroth, Ryley Murdock and Nalani Montgomery were named all-around champions.

Mao Kondo, a Level Nine, earned a third place finish in the all-around regional competition, which qualified her for the Level 9 Western Championships. And at the Western Championships, Kondo had a successful showing with two top-10 finishes in individual events. Kondo finished third on the balance beam and sixth on the floor exercise.

little girl standing with her arms up and smiling on a gymnastic mat
Mao Kondo, a Level Nine at Black Hills Gymnastics, had a successful showing at the Western National Championship with two top-10 finishes in individual events. Photo courtesy: Black Hills Gymnastics

Athletes at Black Hills Gymnastics Finish the Competitive Season Strong

Jacka says it can be a fairly intense training process throughout the season and when at practice, the athletes and trainers are focused on building individual skills as well as routines. Coaches also take special care to work with athletes on training and exercises that will help to prevent injury. Athletes work hard to strike a lifestyle balance, remaining devoted to both school work and gymnastics.

“We work hard to take care of their bodies,” says Jacka. “We do a ton of stretching and physical therapy work, foam rolling and pre-hab strengthening to try to prevent injuries. Because the season starts to feel pretty long once you get to March and April. And these girls do a great job of showing up, putting in full effort almost every single day throughout the season, maintaining their grades.”

Black Hills Gymnastics, located in Lacey, is home to a range of recreational, instructional and competitive gymnastics programs for children and youth. There are two different competitive girls teams, the XCEL team and the Junior Olympic Development Program team (pictured above). Photo courtesy: Black Hills Gymnastics

Reflecting on the recently-completed competitive season, Jacka says that despite ups and downs, the young athletes took on the many months of practices and meets, finishing out strong. And looking beyond athletics, gymnastics can also teach valuable life lessons that the gymnasts can apply to future educational and career endeavors, including how to respond to setbacks, persevere through hardship and how to consistently work toward a common goal.

“One of my favorite things about gymnastics is I feel like we kind of live in a world where you can buy things right away,” shares Jacka. “You can get things instantly, there’s a lot of instant gratification in the world. And in gymnastics, it’s a slow and steady, tedious and methodical sport and it takes a long time and a lot of work and a lot of repetition to get to the point that they are at. We just love watching all of these young people learn the time and the effort that it takes to put into something to truly become successful.”

To learn more about programming available through Black Hills Gymnastics, visit the Black Hills Gymnastics website.

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