Gymnasts find fun and success

By Jason Strickland Democrat Sports Reporter

July 3, 2014

For a couple of hours three times a week, young gymnasts gather at No Doubt Gymnastics in downtown Sedalia.

No Doubt Gymnastics team coach Lori Ann Oja said girls as young as 3-years-old participate in recreational gymnastics there. Most of the team competitors are about 10 or 11-years-old.

She said there are sometimes 5-year-old girls at area competitions.

A group of nine gymnasts trickled into the building Wednesday afternoon for a longer practice since the holiday cut out one of this week’s practices.

With music playing in the background, the girls did various stretching exercises before taking to the bars and beams.

Taileena Oja and Juliauna Wiskur were among the early arrivers, so they strolled on over to the beam first after some stretching.

The team competes at events across the state, but they also have handstand competitions amongst themselves on the beam.

Oja and Wiskur have had success on the beam in competition. At the Heart of Missouri Championships in Columbia on May 10, Oja took second place in the Xcel Platinum level and Wiskur placed first in 11-year-old division of level 4.

Overall, they both took first in their levels. MaeKayla Walters and Elizabeth Sturgill both competed at level three and were all around champions. Walters competed in the 10-year old division and Sturgill was in the 11-year-old division.

The team had two get second place, two get third, two get fourth and one get fifth overall.

Some members of the team have attempted gymnastics moves at home, but they’ve learned the open space at No Doubt works better.

“I’ll do handstands and I’ll hit the door knob on the way up,” Sturgill said. “It’s always the same door knob.”

Others said they learned not to do handstands near the kitchen table.

But there aren’t kitchen tables to run into at No Doubt or at competition venues. The young team finds competing fun, but nerve-racking.

“It doesn’t really hit you that you are competing until 15 or 20 minutes before you are competing,” Sturgill said. “Then you are like, “Oh my gosh, I’m competing.”’

There are a number of reasons each girl started doing gymnastics, but Walters said seeing an Olympian compete encouraged her.

“I was watching TV and I saw Gabby Douglas doing gymnastics and I was like, ‘That’s cool, I want to do that,”’ Walters said.