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Northern Chill Volleyball Club
Monday, Nov. 12, 2018
GymZone competitive programs continue to grow
by Randy Pascal

There is no doubt that the competitive programming at GymZone Gymnastics has now reached a certain level of maturity, given the decades of experience that the folks heading up the organization have enjoyed in producing top end provincial gymnasts.

But at least as important to the growth of this venue has been the widening of the scope of the competitive initiatives, with coaches working with athletes in all four disciplines over the course of the past decade or so.

Under the watchful eye of Holly-Rae Mousseau, a small but spirited tumbling unit kicked off their season earlier this month, with the troika of Emilie Lefebvre, Bailey Jackson and Connor MacDonald all achieving the qualifying scores necessary to gain entry into the provincial championship in June.

A 16 year old grade 11 student at Bishop A Carter Catholic Secondary School in Hanmer, Jackson squeezes in the demands of her training schedule with the work that she does with the GymZone, coaching the recreational crew several days a week at their Valley East facility on Martin Road.

Introduced initially to women’s artistic gymnastics while still a quite young child in her hometown of New Liskeard, Jackson trained for many years with the WAG (women’s artistic gymnastics) grouping, even though she would never venture into provincial competition.

The reduced training requirement of tumbling, combined with her own natural fit for this particular endeavour, prompted Jackson to add this new workout to her existing practice schedule as a member of the Bishop Carter Gators gymnastics team.

“Usually the ones who are good at vaulting or tumbling in their floor routine make good tumblers,” she said. “They are usually more powerful than graceful. They are usually really aggressive and reach high for their end skills.”

And while even a casual gymnastics observer can note the similarities between tumbling lines that are included as part of a floor routine to the pure power tumbling runs that Jackson and her peer group will specialize in, it’s not simply a matter of carrying a floor line to the longer tumbling runway.

“For artistic on floor, you have a much more limited amount of room and you focus on three or four skills, but with power tumbling, you have a longer run and you can mix in more skills,” stated Jackson. “When I started tumbling, I had all of my artistic floor skills, but I couldn’t connect my round off back whips to a back handspring.”

Similarly, it was the fit of power tumbling that eventually drew Connor MacDonald from his handful of years competing in men’s artistic events over to the scene where former Sudburian Denis Vachon has quickly climbed to the ranks as one of the foremost coaches in the country.

“My strength in men’s artistic was floor, and I’ve always liked to flip as a kid,” said MacDonald. “I’ve had a trampoline at home for as long as I can remember.” In fact, the local product was the only competitor to successfully complete a full twisting layout in his category.

“I got third overall, so I was really happy with that,” noted MacDonald of the first meet that he had attended as a power tumbler. “The men’s artistic events are three to four hours long, but tumbling competition is only about 45 minutes long.”

“I thought it was going to be a lot more nerve-wracking,” added Jackson. “In artistic, it feels like there is always someone watching you, but in tumbling, there’s other stuff going on, trampoline and double mini at the same time. It just feels like you’re in practice.”

And yet it wasn’t like the tumblers were garnering all of the headlines recently at the GymZone. Elaina Allen took part in her first provincial meet in trampoline, joined by a trio of teammates who certainly not newcomers to the national trampoline circuit.

By virtue of their performances last year, Sebastien Larochelle (Level 5 – 17+), Pauleena Moote (Level 5 – Under 17) and Kyle Lapierre (Level 6 – 18+) have all already qualified for the Canadian Championship in July.

In fact, Lapierre is currently attempting to qualify to senior level competition, putting him on the map with Canadian Olympians. As coach Michelle Seanor noted, “trampoline athletes need to show specific performance criteria in competition in order to be allowed to compete in national levels, including difficulty elements and execution scores.”

To some extent, that broad definition also applied to Kayla Folz, who was informed last week that she would be invited to nationals (women’s artistic) from May 23rd to 28th in Montreal, as well as being added to the Gymnastics Canada “High Performance” list.

Folz made her case in very impressive fashion, taking part in the recent Elite Canada meet in Halifax. “At Elite Canada, even if you come in the top 28 and you get score (standard), it doesn’t necessarily mean that you get to go to nationals and get on the High Performance list,” explained coach Terra Davidson.

“There’s a panel that goes through a pretty thorough process – there are about 15 items to consider. But the fact that she had placed in the top 28 and achieved score, I was pretty confident,” Davidson continued.

It’s just the latest groundbreaking step for Folz, a senior at St Charles College who has long surpassed even the wildest of expectations from the folks at the GymZone. “Years ago, we had just planned for open nationals,” said Davidson. “It wasn’t in our long term plan to do this.”

“But as we went on, it was going well, so we talked about it and revamped the long term plan. The DD (degree of difficulty) is there, and people came to talk to us. We’ve never had a high performance senior WAG athlete, ever, ever.”

But it’s what happens when a program continues to push the boundaries, as coaches and athletes alike have done, over the years, at GymZone Gymnastics.

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