Boys taking flight

Gymnasts recognized at championships

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— The smiles say they're 8 years old. Their gymnastic feats do not.

On Friday, Cole Gibbs and Billy Winters did handstands on parallel bars and flair kicks on the pommel horse. Their strength, evidenced by their muscular arms, is beyond their years.

They don't lift weights, coach Mike Smith said. Weight training for children whose bones are still developing is not wise. Instead, Gibbs and Winters list all the fun things they do to become strong.

"Dips," Cole said.

"Pull-ups," Billy added.

"Push-ups," Cole said.

"We climb ropes," Billy chimed in.

The list went on.

Cole and Billy sit politely for five minutes until it becomes obvious they would rather be on the gymnasium floor. After a quick thank you for their time, they leap off the bleachers at the Steamboat Gymnastics Center.

On the agenda for Friday's practice was some work on the pommel horse, the mushroom -- an apparatus much easier to use than the horse -- and the parallel bars.

"I like those," Cole said.

On March 11, Cole and Billy were the first two boys from the Steamboat Gymnastics Center to participate in a USA Gymnastics State Championship meet. They both scored personal bests, and Cole qualified for the Region 9 championships with his all-around score of 48.10. He needed only a 43.60 to qualify. The Region 9 meet is April 7 to 9 in West Valley, Utah.

"They both worked hard throughout the season, and their efforts definitely showed," said Smith, who is Cole's father.

Cole received recognition at the meet, placing 10th in the vault with a score of 9.5 and 19th on the parallel bars with a score of 9.0.

Cole and Billy performed front flips off the vault, a requirement at the Level 5 category in which they compete. All of their routines on the floor exercise, vault, pommel horse, still rings, high bar and parallel bars are regulated by USAG guidelines.

Sixty-seven athletes from across Colorado were at the USAG meet at the Extreme Altitude Gymnastics center in Broomfield.

"It was so fun," Cole said.

Billy and Cole are part of a competitive boys team, but they were the only two who have started competing. The rest will begin attending meets in the late spring and early summer, Smith said.

A new boys team session begins Monday, offering two choices. The pre-team for younger children meets from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Pre-team will focus on fun, basic gymnastics skills and core strength and flexibility training.

The boys team, which Cole and Billy are a part of, will meet at 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and will focus on Level 4 and 5 gymnastic moves for competition. Core strength and flexibility training also will be emphasized.

At this level, Smith said, competition skills and routine are the focus, but competing is optional. Fun is not, he added.

For more information about the boys and girls gymnastics programs offered, call the Steamboat Gymnastics Center at 879-1624.

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