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On the flip side

by JOEL MARTIN
Staff Writer | April 2, 2024 1:20 AM

MOSES LAKE — Sometimes working really, really hard at something pays off. As the athletes at AIM Gymnastics are finding out.

The club, which has about 70 gymnasts ranging in age from 11 to almost 18, has four going to regional competitions this year. One competition will be held in Boise, according to coach Natassia Garcia, and the other in Anchorage. 

Many of them have been doing gymnastics most of their lives, they said. Clara Knapp is 15, a freshman at Moses Lake High School, and she’s spent 12 1/2 years learning and practicing.

“I'm glad I started young because I have so much flexibility and stuff I can do, like flips that a lot of people my age can't do,” she said. “It gives me something to show off.”

Piper Nelson has even deeper roots in the sport.

“I’ve been here since I was born,” she said. “Seventeen years. My mom used to own the gym, so I’ve been here since I was a baby.”

Gymnastics is not for wimps. The competitive gymnasts at AIM practice three hours a day, four days a week during the school year, Natassia Garcia said. During the summer, that can go up to six hours a day.

And it shows. The kids leap, flip and spin in directions that appear to defy the laws of physics, and they make it look effortless.

“Some people come in here, (like) my family from out of town, they've never seen anything like this other than in the movies,” said coach Adrian Garcia.

Annika Roybal is the youngest to make regionals, at 11. She started when she was about 3, she said.

“My parents said you have to do a sport and I just chose this one and then I just really took off after I started,” Annika said.

Most of the AIM Gymnasts will be going to the USA Gymnastics Developmental Program, formerly called Junior Olympics, Meet in the Midnight Sun Women’s Regional Championship April 12-15 in Anchorage, Alaska, where they’ll compete in four events: vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. Those competitors are ranked by number, levels 1-10. 

Karisssa Cleveringa, an MLHS senior, is at Level 7, she said. 

“Gymnastics is out of 10, so it's close enough to the highest point,” she said. “And then you're at the point where you get to choose your own routines and stuff like that.”

The first six levels are what’s called “compulsory gymnastics,” which means every competitor does the exact same routing, according to the GymnasticsHQ website. Level 7 is a mixture of compulsory and optional, meaning that a gymnast can choose her own moves within specific guidelines. Levels 8-10 are completely optional, where each gymnast comes up with a unique routine that merely has to meet certain difficulty requirements. After Level 10, a gymnast is eligible for the “Elite” level, which qualifies them to try out for the Olympics.

Piper Nelson competes in a different program under the USA Gymnastics umbrella, called Xcel, that starts out completely optional. Those levels are more colorfully named: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Sapphire. Piper is a Diamond-level gymnast, Kortni Nelson said. Her regional competition will be in Boise on April 20-22.

Kellen Farnsworth, 13, is the lone boy to qualify for regionals. Unfortunately, he won’t actually be able to compete, because the boys team is so new and hasn’t been able to compete all along, Kortni said. He also started a little later than the others, he said, just four or five years ago.

“When I was little I wanted to be good at doing flips and stuff,” he said.

Kellen competes in the four men’s events: Rings, high bar, uneven bars and pommel horse, all disciplines that require a lot of upper-body strength. 

“We started the first boys team back in 2010,” said Adrian Garcia. “We had a good team going for about three or four years, and then we slowed down and I had some boys off and on. But then eventually after COVID we started back up again and I got a group of boys again.”

Joel Martin may be reached via email at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.



    Annika Roybal, 11, flies through the air with what appears to be the greatest of ease at AIM Gymnastics on Thursday. Annika, who’s been involved in gymnastics since she was about 3, is the youngest of AIM’s regional qualifiers.
 
 
    Kellen Farnsworth spins around on “the mushroom,” a practice device for pommel horse routines, at AIM Gymnastics on Thursday.