The Warren County YMCA Powerhouse Gymnastics Team must be getting better by the year.
Last year, the team sent nine girls to the YMCA National Gymnastics Championships, and this year 10 will be making the trip to Milwaukee, Wisc., from this Friday to July 1.
Well over 1,000 gymnasts will be competing in four events, in Olympic order: vault, bars, beam, and floor.
Times Observer photos by Mitchell Wilston
Headed to the big show
Ten Warren County YMCA Powerhouse Gymnasts will be making the trip to the 2012 YMCA National Gymnastics Championships this weekend in Milwaukee, Wisc, including, from left to right, in the air, Morgan Leichtenberger, Julia Vile, Kaitlyn Borden, and Kassandra Wilson and, seated, Kyleigh Wilson, Nina Clark, Hanna Taylor, Aniela Gesing, and Madison Mohney. Missing from the photo is Emily See.
As far as experience goes at the big-time event, this year's squad is split. Five have been to nationals before, and five making their first trip.
Coach Courtney Froman fits into both categories.
"This is my third time coaching at nationals, but my first time as the head coach," said Froman.
"I think it's a big change; I've never gone and coached by myself. I've always had someone there with me," she added.
But with hours of practice dedicated to competing against some of the best young YMCA gymnasts the country has to offer, Froman and the team are ready.
Making the trip for the first time are Level 3 gymnasts Madison Mohney and Aniela Gesing, Prep Opt Novice's Hannah Taylor and Kaitlyn Borden and Prep Opt Intermediate Julia Vile. The higher the level, the higher the skill development, typically.
"I just hope they don't get too overwhelmed because it's such a huge competition. I don't think they're going to, but for the most part it's just exciting to go to a competition like this. They've never been to anything like this before," said Froman.
Aniela Gesing admits that she's a little nervous, but it's for good reason: "It's really big and only the best go," she said.
That being said, she and the other newcomers will fit right in.
The game plan for the first timers is to soak in the experience and have a good time, explains Froman. "We're definitely not putting any pressure on them," she said. "We are just telling them to go out and do their best."
Morgan Leichtenberger is the veteran of the group; this will be her fifth trip to nationals and her second as a Level 7.
Not only is the competition familiar to her, but so is placing against the nation's best.
"My first year I tied for second on vault as a Level 4. The year I went as Level 6 I tied for ninth on the floor," she said.
This year Leichtenberger wants to place in a new category.
"My main goal is do well on beam because that's my strongest event. Hopefully I'll place on that," Leichtenberger said.
As a veteran to the experience, she stresses to the newcomers that there's nothing to be nervous about; "It's not any different than a regular meet," she said. "It's the same atmosphere and the same competition - it's just all bigger."
Leichtenberger isn't the only veteran Level 7 making the trip. Kassandra Wilson will also be headed to Wisconsin with the familiar goal of medalling.
Level 5's Kyleigh Wilson and Emily See, and Level 4 Nina Clarke will also be making return trips to the big event.
Even though they've seen it before, Froman explains that it will still be a different experience for many of the girls. "It's kind of the same thing, but for some of these girls it's a different level," she said.
While most of the competitions that the girls have been involved in have incorporated team standings, nationals is going to be all about individual results.
"We've had girls place in individual events here before, we just need to get more," said Froman.