Students, parents and teachers flipping over Gorge Gymnastics

More than 250 kids and adults attend regular classes in HR


News staff writer

Calling all gymnasts, tumblers and aspiring acrobats young and old. There’s a new club in town.

New to some, anyway.

Gorge Gymnastics, formerly known as Hood River Gymnastics Center, has entered a new era after establishing itself as the preeminent training center in the Columbia River Gorge.

In addition to training future Olympic hopefuls on the pre-team and compulsory team, Gorge Gymnastics offers programs to nearly 250 people of every age and ability level, from toddlers to adults.

The gym, located in the Hood River Sports Club at 1330 Brookside Dr., is open to anyone and attracts participants from Cascade Locks to The Dalles; White Salmon to Stevenson.

Due to the gym’s rapidly growing popularity in the region, gymnastics director Amber Bardin helped organize a contest this fall to rename and develop a new logo. Over 60 entries were collected, and after the staff chose a top three, Sports Club ownership selected Gorge Gymnastics as the winner.

“We wanted to change the name to identify with all the communities that participate in our program,” Bardin said. “Plus, we wanted to highlight both the recreational and competitive programs for newcomers.”

Three of the school’s future stars — Kaela Van Swaay (Intermediate II), Claire Rawson and Kayla Van Hoose (Intermediate I) — collaborated on the new name and logo with compulsory team members Jessica Strain and Kaytlin Hughes.

As a reward for their artistic contributions, the five gymnasts received $150 in gymnastics tuition that they will divide among themselves.

Even before the contest, Bardin has been introducing progressive changes to the gym since she took over as gymnastics director in May. Prior to becoming director, she helped coach the Junior Olympians for four years with girls’ head coach Steve Roney.

Bardin, Roney, Lara Dunn and others have worked tirelessly with local talents like Strain (13) and Hughes (11) to prepare them for national-level competitions.

“There are a lot of very talented kids in the area,” said Roney, who has coached competitive gymnastics for 35 years. “A lot of it is attributed to equally talented parents, but most of the kids are natural athletes who are involved in everything.”

Strain and Hughes recently earned United States Gymnastics Association Level 7 certification at a meet in October. They are two of the finest young gymnasts in the area and are working toward becoming USGA national gymnasts.

Strain, Hughes and all the team members must practice at the gym 10-15 hours per week to master competitive maneuvers such as back layouts and tucks on the floor, walkovers on the balance beam, and “giants” on the uneven bars.

“The long-term goal for many of our kids is to become an Olympian,” Roney said. “The younger they get involved, the faster they learn what it takes.”

But despite the enrollment of 19 pre-team and team-level kids, not everyone at Gorge Gymnastics is involved in the program for the competition.

The majority of students participate in recreational classes, ranging from beginner to intermediate to advanced recreational. There are also more than 20 preschool class times Monday through Friday, and an adult introductory class every Wednesday that has six full-time students.

All classes offer excellent teacher to student ratios (six to one for toddlers; eight to one for others) and provide a top-quality, hands-on learning environment.

“We have a huge enrollment in spite of the town’s size,” Roney said. “Much of that is due to the programs we offer, but this gym is also one of the nicest facilities around.”

Gorge Gymnastics offers all the major apparatuses, including balance beams, uneven bars, a spring-loaded floor, vault, parallel bars, and more tumbling mats than you can back-handspring over.

It also employs some of the finest instructors in the state, such as Leslie Pyfer, a former national champion and the number-one U.S. qualifier for the boycotted 1980 Olympics; Collin Godkin, the boys’ team coach who competed on the senior national team four times; and Dunn, who is the assistant girls’ team coach and adult recreational instructor.

Gorge Gymnastics not only helps out students but also their parents by sponsoring a Parents Night Out the second Saturday of each month, as well as birthday party packages. If you have questions about any Gorge Gymnastics class or promotion, call Bardin at 386-3230.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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