Gymnasts launch into training for competitions


News staff writer

March 3, 2007

The motion comes suddenly.

Kristin Kawachi flies down the mat, hits the vault and flips through the air.

Unlike her previous attempt, where she toppled Gorge gymnastics coach Steve Roney to the ground with her velocity, this time she sticks it.

Roney is thrilled.

“Great job!’ he exclaims.

Kawachi and her advanced class are practicing in the gym at the Hood River Sports Club. While the group goes through its routines in preparation for the Rose City Challenge event in Beaverton this weekend, a group of “Kinderoos” are learning the basics of gymnastics across the blue-covered area for floor routines.

Some of them are learning just how to hang on parallel bars, others learn how to rotate.

But while they have fun hanging from the bars, and occasionally getting tickled by the instructors, they seem to get the biggest kick out of simply running across the floor. They skip and race back and forth, while they try out various positions for floor routines.

“We try to make it fun for the kids,” Kinderoos coach Becca Slotterbeck said.

Kids from both age groups appear to be having fun and Roney wants it to be that way.

“Kids learn better when they are happy and pumped up,” he said. “So we incorporate all sorts of games.”

In between the games, the younger kids are learning the basics of gymnastics so that they can grow to master more complex routines.

Even learning something as basic as a handstand takes practice and several steps.

“Something as simple as a handstand can have five steps to it,” Roney said.

Once the younger students have mastered basic moves they can begin to move on to more advanced moves, and can find themselves flying around the parallel bars or off the pommel horse.

“We try to do things that are sequential for little kids,” Roney said. “That way they have something to build on.”

Claire Rawson and Kawachi, who were both working on their floor routines for the Rose City Challenge at Thursday’s practice, have risen up the ranks to become two of Roney’s top students this year, and they still have room to grow.

The gymnastics program uses Junior Olympic standards, so as gymnasts master the levels of the sports, starting at 1 and rising to 10, they can eventually have the chance to qualify for the Olympics if they so choose.

However, Roney cautions, that is not easy, the Olympic team is made up of 12 gymnasts, out of thousands across the country.

To get to that level, gymnasts have to train their bodies to become finely tuned acrobatic machines.

Many of the twisting, flipping maneuvers happen so fast that gymnasts do not have time to think about what they are doing once they have left the ground.

“They don’t have time to think about what they are doing,” Roney said. “So they train their bodies to think for them.”

The younger kids have not quite gotten that far yet, as Slotterbeck and another instructor work with them on learning how to rotate over a bar and make their way across the balance beam.

However, the coach hopes they will eventually want to be as good as their older counterparts.

“They start watching the older kids and they’ll be like ‘I want to do that,’” she said.

Roney is often amazed at how fast his pupils pick up the skills to become competitive gymnasts.

“These guys go nuts by the time they are 10 or 11,” he said.

Some even pick up the necessary skills and abilities before then, and can be prepared to try more complex moves.

“The younger they are, the better they do,” he said as he watched Kawachi prepare to make another run to send her body spinning through the air off the vault. “They have no fear.”

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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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