Gymnastics center makes progress

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— Rose Atkins has been waiting for giants to enter her gym.

Clapping her hands, the co-owner of the Steamboat Gymnastics Center ran to watch as several gymnasts practiced giant swings on the bars for the first time ever as the winter session opened Monday.

"That was the first time she's seen any of this," coach Deirdre Bernard said.

Those swings marked a significant step in the progression of gymnastics at the center co-owned by Dan and Rose Atkins. The ability of some of the athletes bouncing between the gym walls has increased dramatically.

In less than a year, five gymnasts -- Jaime Winter, Jourdi Hill, Cori Bradbury, Genna Bradley and Brianna Schaffer -- have vaulted, literally, from Level 5 to Level 7.

And now, Bernard and assistants Brandi Robbins and Sarah Call are ready to take their show outside the city limits.

For the first time ever, the Steamboat Gymnastics Center will field an optional team. In other words, the five individual gymnasts on the squad will no longer perform set routines. Instead, they will perform their own choreographed routines on each of the four exercise they compete in -- balance beam, vault, floor and uneven bars.

"It's very exciting for them," Bernard said. "This is a step that every competitive gymnast waits for."

Bernard choreographs all the routines and said she's halfway through. It's one of her favorite parts about being a coach because she and the gymnast can create a routine catering to the girl's strengths and personality.

For example, Winter is incredibly strong, so Bernard said she threw some surprises into her routine.

"Her bars will really shine," Bernard said. "I've incorporated some moves when she's flexing her muscles."

Hill, whom Bernard classified as "bouncy," has been given a jazzy song for her floor routine, and Bernard noticed a change in style.

"It makes a difference when the girls can connect to their programs," she said.

But this is the first year the Steamboat Gymnastics Center has fielded such a team, so hopes, as always, are high but certainly not set in stone. The age level of her girls ranges from 9 to 13.

"This year we are stepping out," Bernard said. "We're going to test the waters because we've jumped up two levels in less than a year. We're going out with a relatively small team of five. We've moved so fast so I don't know what we'll do."

Bernard said the team would compete statewide from March until early summer, tentatively. Two meets are slated in Steamboat, Bernard said. One meet is in May and the other is in August, so the optional team should have a chance to compete in its home gym at least once this year.

But the five-person optional team is just one level of gymnast at the center. A majority of the kids that train under the eyes of Bernard, Robbins, Hall and Dan Atkins are class kids.

Tiny Tots starts for gymnasts as young as 3 and the levels go up from there for both girls and boys, Bernard said.

Classes are held every day and space is still available in the winter session program that runs until March 14.

"The backbone of our team is the class program," Bernard said. "Dan is incredible because he puts together a program that makes the kids very strong, flexible and unafraid."

For more information or to register a child, stop by the Steamboat Gymnastics Center or call 879-1624.

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