Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

YMCA National Gymnastics Championships coming to Tampa

SEFFNER — It's rare for Aly LaHay's extended family to see her execute difficult tricks on a balance beam or stick a floor routine filled with back handsprings and roundoffs.

Her gymnastics competitions are usually out of town.

But the 9-year-old expects to see a lot of familiar faces when she competes next week at the Tampa Convention Center.

The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA and Sarasota Family YMCA will host the 2014 YMCA National Gymnastics Championships from Wednesday through July 5. It's expected to draw 1,800 athletes and their families from all over the country.

Aly and 19 other gymnasts from the North Brandon YMCA in Seffner qualified for the event. More than 60 gymnasts from Tampa's Bob Sierra YMCA qualified.

"It's exciting," Aly, who lives in Brandon, said. "I'm going to have a lot of family there."

The event is a big coup for the Tampa and Sarasota YMCAs and the Tampa Bay area. Opening ceremonies will be held Wednesday at Raymond James Stadium. The competition runs Thursday through July 5 at the Tampa Convention Center.

The event spotlights local YMCAs and its gymnasts. It also brings thousands of tourists to town. The competition's economic impact is estimated at $4.5 million.

More than 100 teams from 23 states are expected at the event, some traveling to Tampa from as far away as California.

"Our kids are so excited," said Kirsten Barton, a representative of the Tampa Metro YMCA. "It's a big deal for the kids to host the event."

The Tampa Bay Sports Commission, which helped the Y land the competition, is thrilled that thousands will descend on Tampa.

Jason Aughey, the sports commission's senior director, said the event will create an economic impact now and likely in the future.

"It's a great way to showcase all of Tampa Bay," he said. "It could lead to repeat visits."

Jay Buckmaster, a top Tampa Metro YMCA official, is happy to see the event return to the area. Tampa last hosted the competition in 1993.

Buckmaster thinks Tampa earned the hosting rights because it can offer a high-quality gymnastics event and also give competitors and their families perks outside the gym, like beaches, amusement parks and Florida's weather.

"I do think Tampa is a destination city," he said. "We have a lot to offer."

Tyna Papillon, the gymnastics coach at the North Brandon YMCA, said she and the girls are excited to compete on a big stage in their hometown in front of friends and family. The girls, ages 7 to 14, will compete in beam, bars, floor and vault.

The girls on the competition team at the North Brandon YMCA train 8 to 16 hours a week, depending on their level. They do not complain about the rigorous training or the time they spend at the gym.

"This is what I love to do," said Lexi Kirschner, 14, of Seffner, whose gymnastics career started at age 6.

Papillon calls gymnastics a good sport for kids because it makes them physically fit. Gymnasts work all muscles, she said. The sport involves stretching, conditioning, weights, cardio and repetition. Gymnasts have to do the moves over and over until they get them right.

"To me, it's the most physically challenging sport there is," she said. "With gymnastics, you're focused on the whole body. We're working arms, we're working legs and we're working abs."

Papillon hopes the event heightens awareness that the YMCA offers more than a fitness facility for adults and basketball programs for youth. Children, she said, can receive high-quality gymnastics training at the YMCA.

"We have programs," she said, "and they are competitive."

Buckmaster added that many Olympic athletes got their start training at a YMCA.

Maya Banks, 13, of Seffner, looks forward to gym days. She says she doesn't want to train anywhere else. Her teammates are her friends. They often get together outside the gym to watch movies, swim and hang out.

"The YMCA really feels like family," she said. "It's the best place to be."

While Papillon hopes the kids do well at the competition, she said she does not feel pressure to win because she and the girls are part of the host team.

"It's an exciting opportunity," she said. "This feels like something we get to own."

Monica Bennett can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE – Two things that tell you a lot about Rays cocksure top prospect Brent Honeywell given Friday's crushing news that he indeed tore a ligament in his prized right arm and is headed for Tommy John surgery that will sideline him wel...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
NHL trade deadline: Action picks up with three-team deal

NHL trade deadline: Action picks up with three-team deal

RALEIGH, N.C. — The  Penguins acquired center Derick Brassard from the Senators on Friday night in a three-team deal that sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Golden Knights.The Penguins announced the deal...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

SARASOTA — Colby Rasmus is making a new start with the Baltimore Orioles after taking an eight-month break from baseball.Rasmus signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles this week, after abruptly leaving the Rays in midseason. The contrac...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Can the Lightning win the Stanley Cup?

Can the Lightning win the Stanley Cup?

When it comes to the Tampa Bay Lightning these days, there's only one question that really matters:Will the Lightning win the Stanley Cup?That's it. That's the big question. That's the only thing on everyone's mind.Will it or won't it?Does this ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for Feb. 23

Friday’s scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 2, Crystal River 0BaseballCalvary Christian 9, Countryside 2Northeast 15, Tarpon Springs 1
Updated: 1 hour ago
Erik Karlsson-to-Lightning talk won’t die down until deadline is over

Erik Karlsson-to-Lightning talk won’t die down until deadline is over

MONTREAL — Senators star defenseman Erik Karlsson sure seemed chatty with his Lightning friends as he left the Canadian Tire Center on Thursday night.Karlsson, 27, took his time talking up several members of Tampa Bay's staff in the hallway out...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Girls basketball: Rematch doesn’t go as planned for Tampa Catholic

Girls basketball: Rematch doesn’t go as planned for Tampa Catholic

TAMPA — Tampa Catholic thought about playing in Friday night's game — the Class 5A region girls basketball final — for an entire year. The Crusaders never forgot how much it hurt to lose in the same game to Oxbridge Academy in 2017....
Updated: 2 hours ago

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosXfinity: Rinnai 250 qualifying9 a.m.FS1Trucks: Active Pest Control 200 qualifying10:30 a.m.FS1Xfinity: Rinnai 2502 p.m.FS1Trucks: Active Pest Control 2004:30 p.m.FS1Baseball, spring trainingRays at Red Sox1 p.m.MLB;620-AMWhite Sox at Marine...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Girls basketball: Clearwater runs into a juggernaut

CLEARWATER — Without a doubt, Clearwater had the will to win. Unfortunately, Fort Myers had the skill, plenty of it.With talent filling every Green Wave role, nothing short of perfection would have kept the host Tornadoes competitive in Fr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Girls basketball: Lakewood returns to state semifinals

Girls basketball: Lakewood returns to state semifinals

TAMPA — New season, same result.For the second straight year, Lakewood traveled to Robinson for the Class 6A region final. And like last season, the Spartans overcame a slow start to blow past the Knights, 83-52.Lakewood (26-4) will play on Wed...
Updated: 2 hours ago