THE Jamaica School of Gymnastics 'High Flyers Team' copped several individual and group awards at arguably the biggest gymnastics tournament of the Americas — the 25th Gasparilla Classics held in St Petersburg, Florida, from March 1-3.
The all-girls team, six to 13 years old comprising students from various schools within the Corporate Area, competed against numerous clubs from the USA, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, The Bahamas and the Cayman Islands. The High Flyers Team competed in several gymnastics events which included the vault, beam, floor and bar in USAG levels 2-5.
It was the first international outing for the majority of girls, who not only were up against stiff competition, but had to do so in near frigid indoor conditions at the Tropicana Field.
Preparation for this tournament was very demanding and the girls did so with less than ideal training conditions when compared with their international counterparts. With minimal training equipment and no official residence with training facilities, head coach Nadeen Whyte and assistant coach Debbie Smith were steadfast in their quest and vision to have the girls well prepared for the competition.
Preparation took the form of the girls assembling their gym in the courtyard at Half-Way-Tree Primary and after going through their routines, they would dissemble the very sparse gym equipment and pack away same until the next training session.
The lack of an adequately equipped and secured gym created some challenges at times in getting the girls prepared for the tournament, as no training could be held whenever it rains as the make-shift gym is located in an open courtyard.
Coupled with such challenges, it proved extremely difficult to raise the funds required for airfare and to secure lodging, meals and ground transportation for the team. With limited support from part sponsors, as well as compassionate Jamaicans, the team was able to attend the tournament. Many parents and relatives had to dig deep in their pockets, and in some instances, sought loans to offset the cost of their child attending the tournament, a very special family in the St Petersburg Diaspora graciously reached out to the team by offering lodging, meals and ground transportation.
Competition gear and send off reception was partly sponsored by KitStar, LogoStitch, The Mushroom, Cash So Kquick (CSK), DJ's Cafe and GE International.
The USAG Level-2 High Flyers team, which comprised six-year-old Alana-Kaye Morgan (Creative Kids Learning Academy -- CKLA), eight-year-old Alyssa Boxe-Golding (Half-Way-Tree Primary), eight-year-old Tanasheree Danvers (Half-Way-Tree Primary), and 10-year-old Amisia Armstrong (Half-Way-Tree Primary), won first place as a small team.
On the individual performances, straight 'A' student and standout performer in her first international outing, Alana-Kaye executed her routines with much confidence and grace in securing three first place positions on the vault, bar and beam; with second place on the floor. She also was declared winner of her level-2 category. Other first-timers Alyssa (vault 7th, bar 9th, beam 10th and floor 7th: 10th place overall); Anisia (vault 6th, bar 12th, beam 9th and floor 13th: 11th place overall), and Tanasheree (vault 11th, bar 11th, beam 11th and floor 11th: 12th place overall) competed very well in ensuring that the High Flyers team secured the top small team award.
Tiffany Cameron, 10-year-old of Mountain View Primary (vault 12th, bar 8th, beam 10th and floor 10th: 8th place overall); Hawahi Spencer, 12-year-old of Half-Way-Tree Primary (vault 10th, bar 11th, beam 8th and floor 8th: 11th place overall); Rhea-Simone, 11-year-old of Half-Way-Tree Primary (vault 11th, bar 13th, beam 9th and floor 11th: 12th place overall), and Domonique Clarke, 11-year-old of Half-Way-Tree Primary (vault 13th, bar 12th, beam 13th and floor 13th: 13th place overall) did well to secure fourth place as small team in the USAG -- level-3 category.
Shamya Edgar, 10-year-old of August Town Primary (vault 6th, bar 6th, beam 9th and floor 6th: 7th place overall) and Mekayda Thomas,
12-year-old of Dunrobin Primary (vault 9th, bar 11th, beam 9th and floor 9th: 10th place overall) competed very well in the USAG-level 4 category in securing top 10 positions.
Senior standout performance for the team was Queen's High School student and 13-year-old Shania Edgar, who competed in the USAG-level 5 category. She copped first place on the vault, second place on the bar, third place on the beam and 11th place on the floor, as well as overall second place for USAG -- level 5.
Head coach Whyte was elated with the performances by the girls, especially against the background of very trying conditions to have the team prepared. She singled out the discipline and dedication which Shania and Alana-Kaye expended during training sessions, which paid dividend at the end of the day. She exclaimed that they were duly rewarded for their hard work. She also highlighted that the other girls gave it their all and the experience would have opened their eyes as to the level of work required to take the top positions at future international competitions.
Whyte said that the outlook and ultimate objective of the programme is to develop and send a team to the Olympics dubbed vision 2020. The spin-offs of such a journey serve to enhance the life skills of the youngsters. The team now set its sight on another international tournament in Miami in August.