Tuesday, May 22, 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
Academy at the Lakes wins first state softball title

Academy at the Lakes wins first state softball title

VERO BEACH —Academy at the Lakes waited two weeks to play in the Class 2A state softball tournament in hopes of winning what has been an elusive title.The Wildcats completed the first task Monday, cruising to a mercy-rule win over Fort Pierce John Ca...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Faria on the mound

For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Faria on the mound

UPDATE, 6:04: Cash said the Rays don't know yet if Wendle will be  back Thursday or Friday, though with the Sox starting RHP Rick Porcello on Thursday that would make sense. …  Cash said OF Carlos Gomez (groin strain) will run the bas...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Bucs’ Mike Evans: Yards after catch must improve in 2018

Bucs’ Mike Evans: Yards after catch must improve in 2018

Mike Evans is one of just three receivers in NFL history to open his career with four straight 1,000-yard seasons, but he understands one area where he can make a big improvement in 2018: yards after the catch."I think last year was my worst year in ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Did ex-girlfriend’s Facebook post leak suspension of FSU starter Josh Ball?

Did ex-girlfriend’s Facebook post leak suspension of FSU starter Josh Ball?

A Florida State student from Lithia wrote a Facebook post Monday afternoon alleging the suspension of Seminoles starting offensive tackle Josh Ball.Little else was known a day later, but the details in the since-deleted post are consistent ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays call up top prospect Willy Adames – but only for a couple days

Rays call up top prospect Willy Adames – but only for a couple days

The Rays have called up top prospect INF Willy Adames – though likely for a short stay.INF Joey Wendle was placed on the paternity list Tuesday, which allows him to miss up to three days.Manager Kevin Cash said Adames is headed back to Triple-A...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Gerald McCoy: Sorry, but Vita Vea is Maui from Moana

Gerald McCoy: Sorry, but Vita Vea is Maui from Moana

If you've been dipping your toes in the "Gosh, Vita Vea looks a lot like the guy from Disney's Moana" pool, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has jumped in all the way.The Bucs' 347-pound rookie is massive, has a family history on the Pacific island...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Photos: Bucs open OTA practices

Photos: Bucs open OTA practices

“We’d love to have everybody here,” said coach Dirk Koetter, who said he was unsure if Pierre-Paul or Grimes would practice before next month’s mandatory minicamp. “That’s the perfect world, but we don’t live...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning squanders chance to close out Capitals

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning squanders chance to close out Capitals

The Lightning misses an opportunity to close out the Capitals in Washington, so there will be a Game 7 in Tampa on Wednesday night with a berth in the Stanley Cup final on the line.Andrei Vasilevskiy was fantastic, but the Lightning couldn't match th...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

The Bucs started another chapter of their offseason Tuesday with the first OTA (organized team activity) practice at One Buc Place, with veterans Jason Pierre-Paul and Brent Grimes as the only healthy players absent from what is officially a voluntar...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Game 7 odds and ends as you wait for Lightning-Capitals on Wednesday

Game 7 odds and ends as you wait for Lightning-Capitals on Wednesday

For the 33rd time in NHL history, a Stanley Cup semifinal series is headed to a Game 7, where the home teams are 21-11.The Lightning and Capitals meet Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in a win-or-go home game to decide who plays Vegas in the Stanley C...
Updated: 5 hours ago