Steamboat Springs’ gymnasts Maggie McElhiney performs a leap while practicing for this weekend’s EAGLES league meet at Excel Gymnastics. The meet will provide a rare opportunity for McElhiney and her teammates to compete at home.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs’ gymnasts Maggie McElhiney performs a leap while practicing for this weekend’s EAGLES league meet at Excel Gymnastics. The meet will provide a rare opportunity for McElhiney and her teammates to compete at home.

Steamboat gymnasts hope to soar at EAGLES competition

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— Excel Gymnastics will tumble, roll and spring into the spotlight this Saturday as the local program hosts an EAGLES Gymnastics league meet in Steamboat Springs.

“It’s great to have a home meet,” said Emily Groves, who is excited to be moving up from level 5 to level 6 this week. “This is an easier meet than some of the ones we travel to, and it’s just a fun meet.”

Excel owner Mike Smith expects about 160 competitors, including 30 from Steamboat Springs, to attend the meet. Those athletes will represent 10 teams, most of which traveled from other areas of the state.

“For many of our girls, this will be their first competitive meet,” Smith said.

Smith said the EAGLES league tends to be a little more laid back than some of the other gymnastics circuits that organize competitions throughout the year. He said this meet is a great place for younger athletes to get a start and offers some of the older competitors a place to compete and sharpen their skills heading into the summer.

“I’m excited because we just got this new gym and at the other gym we didn’t have the right equipment to have a meet,” said Julia Gibbs. “This will be our second meet here.”

For Olivia Williams, the meet will give her a chance to return to competition after being sidelined by an injury.

“I had to quit for a year and a half, and I just came back a month ago. This will be my first meet back,” Olivia Williams said. “I love it. I missed the whole environment. I love competing, and I love winning.”

The day will be split into three sessions, with the level 3 (entry level) and level 5 (intermediate) athletes starting with the compulsory events at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

The second session will begin at 12:45 p.m. and will feature level 4 athletes — the largest group of the competition — competing in compulsories. Once again, the young athletes will be scored on how well they perform a pre-designated program.

In the evening, 51 competitors will return to the gym to perform routines they choreographed. That session will run from 5:15 to 9:30 p.m. Smith said the event will feature the more experienced level 5, level 6, level 7 and open athletes.

Each of the sessions will include the uneven bars, beam, floor and vault. The athletes will be scored on specific routines in the compulsory and will be required to complete certain basic elements in the open sessions.

For most of the year, athletes from Steamboat Springs are forced to travel to meets. But since opening Excel Gymnastics 15 months ago, Smith has been working to bring meets to the Yampa Valley.

“This is the one meet where we don’t have to travel, and we don’t have to pay for a hotel room,” Smith said. “Just like any other team in Steamboat, we like to be home where we are comfortable and where we perform our best.”

Smith said the meet also is a great opportunity to bring visitors to Steamboat. He hopes it will be an economic boost for Steamboat and his gym.

“This meet gives people in Steamboat a chance to see what a real live gymnastics competition looks like,” Smith said.

Smith said that what most people see on television has been edited down to just the highlights, and it’s difficult for people to understand what goes into a full meet.

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