Each year the focus of the competition season is to prepare to be at your best for the Region 5 Level 9 and 10 Championships. This competition brings all five states together to compete for that goal everyone is striving for, qualifying to nationals. This for some regions isn’t as daunting of an experience as it is in Region 5. The anxiety builds as the general stretch ends and Flight A warm-up begins. In this region, the final results can be so close that coaches are keeping track of where their athletes are in the standings from event to event, wondering if they need to pull a skill or go for that bigger vault. This in turn adds to the anxiety and stress of the meet. There is a mix bag of emotions from the intensified highs of a hit routine or big score to saddening lows of an uncharacteristic fall or error possibly ending any chance of advancing. As the final competitors are finishing their routines and the competition draws to close, the tv screens posting the standings becomes the center of focus. Coaches crowd around the screen quickly becoming mathematicians adding scores of others in their heads or out loud to figure out if their athletes will remain in the top 8 and make the Region 5 Dream Team. Now that the Dream Teams have been named, SWAG handed out, hotel rooms booked and media uploaded; it is time to reflect back on the great weekend of gymnastics, friendship, camaraderie and hard work. Here are our Top 10 standout moments from the Region 5 Championships.
I always love to give props to the venue and the host gym. Regionals was held at the Indiana Convention Center, which is an enormous facility, by DeVeau’s School of Gymnastics. The competition floor was nicely spread out that no one was standing on top of each other in-between events. The DeVeau’s parent volunteers were also very easy to work with and very accommodating to everyones needs. I also really liked that they brought an actual Indy Race Car into the arena for the girls to take pictures in front of, it definitely made for some great Dream Team media photos.
9. Region 5 SWAG
Everyone knows that Region 5 is the absolute BEST Region to represent not only because of Region 5s competitively high standards, but also because we take very good care of our DREAM TEAM! For the girls who make the DREAM TEAM it is like Christmas in April! The amount of SWAG & apparel these hard working ladies receive is incredible and the Region 5 Staff who go out of there way to put the apparel together and distribute it to the athletes is amazing! When Region 5 hits Indy in two weeks, everyone around will certainly know we are there! Everything they use and wear will bear the Region 5 Magenta Logo!
8. Coordinating Coaches
I love going to competitions and seeing the coaches representing their team to the max, especially the coaches that go all out wearing matching outfits each day of competition. A few gyms from the weekend that caught my eye with their head to toe matching apparel was New Heights, Oakland, Buckeye and Perfection.
Also, Jason would like to thank all Illinois coaches who wore their Illinois shirts and special shout out to Patrice McPherson for blinging it out to fit her own personal style. You guys all looked great and represented your state with extreme pride!
7. Olympia’s Pillars of Strength
For many years I have watched Olympia coaches Lori and Deanna coaching their athletes at meets. I have always been in awe of their techniques that they use with their athletes. I have never once seen them get mad or angry at an athlete for a fall or mistake. I especially love what they do before each beam routine, the girls who are up will not watch the routine before them, instead they are going through their own routine with their eyes closed and back to the beam, they will also speak one on one with Lori about their routine, their focus words or the Doc Ali sports psych things that they have done. I love watching this ritual and routine, Lori also always has some encouraging word or phrase for the girls. This weekend she spoke of having Joy in their routines, it was just refreshing to watch, these girls thrive on that type of energy and positivity. Once the athlete mounts the apparatus Lori will find her spot behind the judges and go through the every skills of the routine with the girls, she stands the very same way every time like it is a ritual of some sort. I love watching Lori watch them as much as I love watching the beautiful routines. I wanted to bring attention to these two wonderful coaches, because when they stand next to the event they are truly two pillars of strength for their athletes. It is awe-inspiring, Lori and Deanna are some of the greatest coaching mentors and role models in our Region.
6. Nia Dennis Sweeps Age Group
Nia Dennis, who suffered an achilles injury, decided to drop back to level 10 to finish out her JO Gymnastics career before heading to UCLA in the fall. Nia, who is an extremely impressive talent swept her entire age group this year winning every event plus the AA. This year there were a few different athletes that could have accomplished this feat, however small errors kept that from happening and Nia Dennis, who trains at Legacy Elite, found herself at the only competitor, in a very tough field, to sweep the podium. Nia will certainly be one to watch at Nationals in two weeks.
** Colby Miller of Perfection won every event and the all around but tied for first on beam so it wasn’t a sweep but still impressive to mention.
5. Junior F Age Group & Floor Judge #2
“WOW WHAT A GREAT GROUP TO END WITH!!! THOSE ROUTINES WERE FANTASTIC”—-Floor Judge #2
That is exactly what Judge #2 proclaimed during the last rotation of the last level 10 session. She was absolutely blown away by the floor routines from some of girls in the Junior F age group! Chloe Bellmore, Isabel Redmond, Maitilyn Waligora and Gabryel Wilson took the floor and completely blew this judge away with their amazing floor routines. These 4 girls, who also placed top 1-4 in AA, make up most of the Junior F age group, with their sky high tumbling, explosive jumps and entertaining choreography they certainly won over the judges, fans and other athletes around them during the last rotation of Saturdays competition.
The Junior F age group, made up of Gabryel, Maitlyn, Isabel, Chloe, Karlie Franz (Hunts), Brooklyn Sears (TOPS) and Payton Murphy (Palmer’s) will certainly be the group to watch at JO Nationals. This is definitely a powerhouse stacked team, with 5 out of the 7 capable of hitting 38+ in the AA, that could take it all.
4. Doubles off Beam
Beam has always been one of my favorite events to watch, I am always looking for whats new, different and unique from the mount to the series to the dismount. This year was no different there was a lot of originality in the routines, my main focus was on dismounts, the double back dismount specifically. These days in Level 10 gymnastics you do not see very many double back dismounts off the beam, those kinds of skills are usually reserved for the elite gymnastics scene, so when I do happen to catch a double back off beam I love it and always make sure to get it on camera. This year there were a plethora of them. Presleigh Buck-Twistars USA (Video), Elizabeth Gantner-JPAC (Video), Nyah Smith-Oakland (Video), Gabryel Wilson-Olympia (Video) and Sierra Brooks-Aspire (Video)
3. Event Cheers
In true Region 5 fashion, Brett Wargo (Twistars USA) led the girls in cheers before each event. Each cheer was completely different and fun, like “Rock Solid” for Beam (Video), “block higher than the Willis Tower” for Vault and my personal favorite “Tumble gigantically large” for Floor (Video).
2. 38 Club
Gymnastics is an extremely hard sport, when I was a young gymnast competing you did not see 38.00, that was just unheard of at the time. When I was a kid 35.50 was winning State Meet. The level of gymnastics is so great these days that these kids achieving a 38 is so incredible, however it is not easy. These kids that are scoring 38 AA are EXTREMELY talented, they are the athletes that when they take the floor everyone stops to watch them compete including myself. At the 2017 Region 5 Championships we had 16 girls score 38+, we could create two super teams from these top 16 girls. This truly shows the great talent that Region 5 has to offer, no wonder its considered one of the hardest Regions to qualify out of to Nationals.
[one-half-first]Andrea Li, Legacy Elite 38.925 (JrE)
Kai Rivers, Twistars USA 38.700 (SrA)
Gabryel Wilson, Olympia 38.675 (JrF)
Maitilyn Waligora, Olympia 38.650 (JrF)
Aria Brusch, CGA 38.625 (JrE)
Anastasia Webb, I.G.I 38.575 (SrE)
Nia Dennis, Legacy Elite 38.575 (SrF)
Alyssa Al-Ashari, Twistars USA 38.525 (JrC)
Chloe Bellmore, Twistars USA 38.250 (JrF)
Colby Miller, Perfection 38.350 (SrC)
Payton Richards, Aerial 38.475 (SrA)
Isabel Redmond, Olympia 38.350 (JrF)
Ella Cesario, Legacy Elite 38.325 (JrB)
Sierra Brooks, Aspire 38.200 (JrE)
Delanie Harkness, Twistars USA 38.200 (JrD)
Jenna Swartzentruber, Buckeye 38.125 (SrD)
1.First Time Qualifiers
Qualifying to JO Nationals is always a big deal especially if you are qualifying out of one of the toughest Regions in the entire country. This year we had 52 first time JO National qualifiers, spread across all the age groups. It is always exciting to see the Junior A’s because they are all first time qualifiers, its exciting to see their excitement and energy as they go through processing and media. It is also exciting to see those girls who are seniors and qualify for the first time, it is a tremendous accomplishment and many feel like their handwork has paid off. Almost every gymnast has the goal of qualifying to JO Nationals, everyone works incredibly hard day in and day out to accomplish this goal, so for the seniors qualifying to JO Nationals is icing on the cake, they are certainly going out with a bang and that is wonderful to witness.