Hard Work Pays For Local Club
Wetaskiwin athletes off to Banff and Canmore for Alberta Winter Games.
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Earning a trip to the Alberta Winter Games in the sport of gymnastics was not easy for four Wetaskiwin athletes, Kira Leask, Brynn O’Connell, Devan Weinhandl and Zoe Kertcher. Practice, practice, practice. The girls commit up to 16 hours a week practicing and attending competitions during the 41 week competitive season; 13 weeks during the fall session, the January to April winter session and the 8 week spring session offered in May and June. The hard work has paid off. In December, 2013 the Wetaskiwin Gym Club sent 5 girls to the Zone gymnastic try-outs with 4 of them making up the entire Level 2 for Zone 4 team and Megan Strydom placed 6th in the Zone competition.
Representing Zone 4 at the Winter Games in Canmore and Banff on February 6-9, 2014 are:
• Kira Leask, age 13, doing gymnastics since age 3, favorite event is the beam.
• Zoe Kertcher, age 13, doing gymnastics for 10 years with several breaks in between, favorite event is floor.
• Brynn O’Connell, age 11, doing gymnastics since she was 18 months old, started competitive gymnastics at 6 yrs, favorite event is the floor.
• Devan Weinhandl, age 13.
Team member Brynn O’Connell is excited. “It is an exciting opportunity to go to the Winter Games. It is also a good opportunity to meet new people, represent my Zone/Club and it’s good to compete with the skills I worked hard on.”
Bob Kertcher, father of athlete Zoe Kertcher, commented on his daughter’s reaction to being selected to the team. “Zoe tells me that the concept of going to the games really hasn't sunk in yet and probably won't until she is there. She's looking forward to having the opportunity to compete together as a team.”
Substandard training facility can produce provincial level athletes
Walking into what appears to be a make-shift looking training facility located behind the bowling alley in Wetaskiwin, the first impression is that the facility and equipment are certainly not the standard that is producing athletes that are competing at a provincial level. Still, 4 athletes qualified for the Winter Games and the 5th athlete, Megan Strydom placed 6th for Zone 4. Kryssie Barry, the Competitive Program Coordinator and Coach proudly states, “We train in a tiny 4500 sq. ft. facility with a very low ceiling. Still, we have the capability to create great, successful athletes. We had 2 girls make the 2012 Winter Games Team, which was a great accomplishment, but this time the athletes from our Gym Club make up the entire level 2 team. For the last two years we’ve also qualified athletes to compete at Alberta Gymnastics Provincial Championships.
In 2006, the Club introduced a pre competitive program that over the last 6 years has developed into competitive stream gymnastics. In 2012 we registered our organization as a Competitive Club, making us eligible for meets like Alberta Winter Games, Zone Championships and Provincials. The Club also has competitive athletes competing in levels 1-3 in the Canadian Provincial Program. The recreational program follows a 12 level badge system, CANGYM, with athletes currently completing levels 8 and 9.”
During the practise, attributes such as respect, orderly conduct, listening skills, politeness and poise and a high level of athletic ability were very noticeable. Program Coordinator and Coach, Krissie Barry has been coaching gymnastics for 16 years. “I take a great deal of pride in teaching the girls the value of hard work and love seeing the satisfaction they feel when they accomplish their goals.” Although she lives in Lacombe, she travels to Wetaskiwin 6 days a week to work with pre competitive to Provincial Level 3 athletes. Kryssie’s credentials include: Level 2 Certified, trained level 3 in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics and Level 1 Certified, level 2 trained in Trampolining.
“Gymnastics teaches body awareness, balance, coordination, strength, flexibility and discipline, which are great building blocks for any sport. Our goal is to promote activity and good health for all with quality instruction in a safe environment.”
Parent, Darla Leask comments on gymnastics
“Having 4 of our girls qualify from our Zone to go to the Winter Games is a huge benefit for Wetaskiwin. It shows the calibre of athlete and coaching that Wetaskiwin can produce. Hopefully seeing how good the girls are might encourage other kids (boys and girls) to want to do the same thing. Gymnastics is awesome for fitness, mental and physical conditioning as well as discipline. Going to a Provincial event like this puts Wetaskiwin on the map. The future of gymnastics in Wetaskiwin could see potential National and or Olympian athletes. It is important for gymnastics to be a part of Wetaskiwin as the more physical activities we have for the youth to participate in, the better off they are. A healthy body and mind is a happy body and mind.
The Winter Games will benefit Kara by her being able to compete alongside of the athletes from across Alberta that have the same drive and passion for the sport of gymnastics that she does. Being part of the Winter Games will also boost her confidence by seeing that she can compete with the rest of Alberta’s finest athletes.”
History of gymnastics in Wetaskiwin
The gymnastics club started out in the Sacred Heart School in 1989. They moved into a small permanent space in 1995, and the current location in 2001. The Club became a non-profit organization under the Society Act in the early 90’s. The Club is run by a volunteer board of directors supported by countless volunteer hours.
Coach Barry describes the variety of gymnastic programming available. “We average about 110-125 recreational participants each year and our competitive program has had approximately 15 athletes for the last 4 years. We have a homeschool program running with about 40 participants coming from the surrounding areas and offer school field trip programming for Phys. Ed. classes. We also offer tot and preschool programs for ages 18 months to 5 years, with and without parental participation. We have offered programs for cheer teams and dance classes in the past as well. We are currently located in Wetaskiwin, but attract athletes from Camrose, Millet, Ponoka, Gwynne, Pigeon Lake and other surrounding areas.”
The small club from a small community is producing big results but as Audrey Wall, current Office Manager explains, “We really do need a new updated building that will allow our athletes to progress successfully to levels they want to achieve without having to travel to larger centers.” Bob Kertcher, another parent stresses the importance of a new facility to Wetaskiwin and region. “Given that there are few competitive level clubs in Central Alberta the Wetaskiwin & District Gymnastics Club serves as a regional center for gymnasts from the area.”
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