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    High degree of difficulty reason for low numbers


    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2001

    Boys make up a small percentage of the gymnastics population, but that doesn't mean it's any less a sport.

    The difficulty of boys gymnastics may be one reason for its low participation numbers. Plus, historically, gymnastics isn't one of the more popular sports among males.

    "Gymnastics is very difficult," said Skip Zimmer, the 17th-year boys coach at Gemini School of Gymnastics in Gemini. "Even at a relatively lower level, gymnastics is harder than a lot of other sports at that beginning level."

    There are about 600 boys participating statewide, with a high concentration in the Tampa Bay area, Miami, Tallahassee and Orlando.

    Zimmer has the most gymnasts in the area, with about 25 at Gemini spread out among Class 7-1. At the highest level at Gemini is Class 2 with Colin Christ, Jason Pierce and Wesley Aderhold, followed by Jeremiah Hodges in Class 3.

    "A lot quit after they just get started in gymnastics," said Christ, 14. "Sometimes they start too young and aren't ready to do the work. I started when I was nine, started off easy and got hooked."

    Last year, Christ missed qualifying for the national team by .025 points.

    "I'm doing lots of routines to improve," Christ said. "I hurt my knee earlier and just competed in my first meet of this season. I did okay, and am looking forward to this weekend at the Gym Force Classic in Tallahassee."

    In Christ's first meet, the Cupid Classic, a second all-around finish was a result of firsts in still rings, vault and parallel bars along with a second on pommel horse and a third in floor exercise.

    Pierce had dislocated a finger and didn't compete in the meet, but Aderhold finished third all-around. Event placements included a second in floor and on vault and parallel bars, third on pommel horse and still rings and fourth on high bar.

    "I started gymnastics when I was about seven," said Aherhold, who recently moved from North Carolina. "I started because I was doing a lot of tumbling around the house.

    "Floor exercise has always been one of my favorite events," he said, "but I have to work pretty hard on the pommel horse."

    Karl Bishop, owner of the Apollo School of Gymnastics in Clearwater, thinks gymnastics offers more than just physical benefits.

    "You should certainly get the physical benefits from gymnastics, but even more are the mental and emotional benefits," said Bishop, who coaches the Apollo boys program.

    "Right now, we have a very young group of boys, but they're very talented and dedicated. One day, they could be headed to nationals as well."

    In the Cupid Classic at the Long Center, Apollo's young Class 7 team was first overall, followed by Class 5 at fourth and Class 6 fifth.

    Contributing to the Class 7 win were top-10 all-around finishes by Tomily Bourgoing, Bradley Hutson, Jessee Scott and Andy Shaffer.

    Victor Valenty at ninth all-around, Jordan Loscalzo fifth and Grant Brittain sixth helped Class 5 in its performance, as did Sterling Jackson, Jacob Wolf and James Van Cleve III in Class 6. Next month is the Gasparilla Classic, held for the first time at the Tropicana Field, followed by regional championships in April. DIVING: Austin Hampton won a silver medal in 1-meter competition, finished fourth on the 3-meter and sixth on platform in Orlando in the All-Star International Invitational's division for 14-15-year-olds.

    At the recent Coral Springs Invitational, Clearwater Aquatic diver Kaila Johnston won the 14-18-year-old intermediate 3-meter competition and was eighth on the 1-meter. Ryan Schomburg was first among the 12-13-year-olds on the 1-meter. Other top finishes were earned by Hannah Sisk, Cody Dodds and Hilary Sisk.

    Next month, Johnston, Dodds, Cammie Voss and Josh Matson will compete in the Winter Regionals in Orlando.

    GIRLS GYMNASTICS: Amanda Shumake, a Level 6 Bayside Gymnastics member, won the all-around competition in this month's Cupid Classic in Clearwater.

    Shumake finished first on the vault and uneven bars, was second on the balance beam and third in floor exercise.

    The Apollo School of Gymnastics placed two all-around champions in the classic's AAU and USAG competition. Sally Rae Fix was first in AAU Level 4, and Kendra Miller won in Level 5. Catherine Kelly and Heidi Swanson were first in the USAG Level 8.

    Team placements included a second for AAU Levels 4 and 5 and for USAG Level 7.

    Amanda Miller and Alyssa Wright captured top all-around awards for LaFleur's Gymnastics of Largo in the recent Palm Beach Presidential Classic. En route to the honor, Miller won vault and floor events in Level 7 and Wright was first in Level 9 floor competition.

    Top-10 all-around finishers in Level 7 included Lindsay Lecroy, Kelly Hyland, Jordann Windschauer, Amanda Schoeck, Krista DeSantis and Briana Melander; in Level 8, Jenifer Voynovich and Kari Colvill; and in Level 9, Whitney Eberhardt, Kim Conaway and Erin Godin.

    SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING: Suncoast WaterWorks has been awarded a $5,000 grant from the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Foundation to establish beginning programs at 20 area pools.

    To be considered as a site, contact Karne Paulk, 531-9451, or Sherri Lee, 588-2518.

    STAR OF THE MONTH: Pinellas students awarded the Tampa Bay Sports Commission John Lynch Star of the Month for December included Brandon Tucker, Katelyn Kreighbaum, Jessica Cubides and Jason Kiggins.

    Kreighbaum is involved in volleyball at Azalea Middle School, as is Tucker at John F. Kennedy Middle. Cubides and Kiggins run track at Seminole High School. Kiggins also is a wrestler, and Cubides is on the basketball and volleyball teams.

    The monthly awards are given to students in recognition of achievement in athletics, academics, sportsmanship and community involvement. Each recipient becomes eligible to be considered for the John Lynch Star of the Year award presented in May.

    Among the January winners are Kimberly Beers, Tyson Brock, Veniece Kilissanly and Damon Lister.

    Beers plays basketball at Kennedy Middle School. Brock participates in basketball, volleyball, softball and soccer at Blessed Sacrament. Kilissanly competes on the tennis and swimming teams at Seminole High, Lister plays soccer for Seminole.

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