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Jack Miller and the GymZone boys are fighting the odds - and the competition
2023-05-22
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As usual, long-time local gymnastics coach Jack Miller has thrown himself into several different simultaneous efforts in his sport of choice.

And as usual, many are the young athletes who will benefit from his passion.

Not surprisingly, there is a vision in mind to try and breathe life into the realm of high-school gymnastics - a thought and concept that he shares with a small handful of others in Sudbury and region, pretty much the only area of the province where the sport enjoys a least some level of competition for secondary school students.

That is a story for another day.

In the meantime, Miller is busy coaching a revamped men's artistic team representing GymZone Gymnastics, with three members having travelled from Sudbury to Woodbridge for a recent meet.

"The numbers in men's gymnastics are about half of what used to be (pre-pandemic)," said Miller. "Covid wiped out several men's programs across the province."

Fighting to counter this trend, Miller would take his team of Finn Connolly (Level 2 - age 9-10), Ben Lagace (Level 1 - age 13+) and T & T coach Graham Boland (Provincial Open - 13+) into competition, with all three posting some encouraging results.

With a third place all-around finish, Connolly took top spot on the vault, the rings and the parallel bars, with Boland matching him on the vault, placing second on the parallel bars and also placing third overall in his grouping.

A grade 7 student at Algonquin Road Public School, Lagace did not expect the high bars to be the highlight of his weekend, earning bronze on the apparatus and sliding into fourth place in his category.

"It was my last event and I was kind of tired," recalled Lagace. "I was surprised that I did so well on that. I didn't think I was doing that well."

Conversely, there were the rings, where the 12 year old who started in gymnastics at the age of seven but made the move to competitive only a couple of years ago is anxious to have another crack.

"I was looking forward to the rings," said Lagace, reminiscing on his first ever meet. "It's normally my best event but I didn't do as well on that."

Still, overall, there were far more in the way of positives to draw from his first effort, despite some pre-competition trepidation. "I was kind of nervous; I didn't know what to expect," said Lagace.

"When I got there, as soon as I touched the first event, everything was okay. I want to do it again."

That's a pretty ringing endorsement from the young man who still recalls the early challenges of making the move from his once a week more recreational workouts to the sessions that help prepare he and his teammates for meets like the Woodbridge Invitational.

"The first couple of classes, your arms will be really sore - especially for me in those first two classes," Lagace said with a laugh. "Now that I do it every day, it's a lot easier."

Dairy Queen - Sudbury - Kingsway / Val Caron