The Red Deer Exelta Gymnastics Club are in what girls’ artistic director Barb Bilsborrow calls a rebuilding stage, but the numbers are better than ever.
“We are rebuilding in that a lot of the older athletes have left to go to college, or just moved on,” said Bilsborrow.
“But every clubs has that. You lose some of the top athletes, but we have lots of kids at the lower levels.”
In fact the club has 42 girls registered in the competitive division.
“It’s the biggest number we’ve had, as we’re usually around 35,” explained Bilsborrow.
“But this year we were lucky to add two more coaches, which give us six, so we could add more kids. It means the coaches can work with their group instead of one coach working with four levels.”
The club has 12 new girls this year as young as four.
The kids have to be nine years olds to compete at Alberta Gymnastic Federation events, but invitational meets do allow eight-year-olds to compete.
“Plus we have a number of inhouse things for the younger kids with a lot of demonstrations for the parents to come and film,” said Bilsborrow.
The club does have two athletes at the national level in 15-year-old Kyla Jepson and 14-year-old Kaelan Hayter while Erika Pearson competed in her final event at the girls’ artistic Exelta Cup at the Collicutt Centre during the weekend.
“Erika has had a number of injuries, so she’s leaving,” explained Bilsborrow, whose daughter, Hannah, is one of the top provincial level athletes in the province.
“She’s the level just below the national level but not quite there.”
Hannah Bilsborrow had a strong showing during the weekend, finishing second in the P5 open division while winning the vault and beam, finishing third in the uneven bars and 11th on the floor.
It’s important to have competitors such as Bilsborrow and the national level athletes to inspire the younger kids, says Barb Bilsborrow.
“It’s easy to motivate the kids when you have national level athletes to inspire them,” she said.
“The younger kids watch them and want to be like them.”
The girls’ program isn’t the only one to expand. The men’s program, which will hold their Exelta Cup Saturday, has doubled in numbers this year.
“It’s partly because the rec programs are doing well and the kids are interested in the competitive division,” said Bilsborrow.
The recreation program runs sessions in the fall, winter and spring with close to 500 kids involved.
“They come once a week and work on a badge program every session.
“They don’t have to go to the next session, but the numbers remain high.”
When looking for prospective competitive athletes Bilsborrow and her coaches first look for strength and coordination.
“And some flexibility, although that can be learned,” she said.
With the continued growth of the artistic programs to go with the tumbling and trampoline, the club is full.
“We would love to expand because with the three programs it’s a little crowded,” said Bilsborrow.
“We’ve looked into it, but we’re not sure what will happen.”
The Exelta Club tumbling and trampoline goes Sunday.
Jepson finished fifth, Pearson ninth and Hayter 10th in the national open level.
Jepson was third on the beam, tied for fifth on the vault, was seven on the uneven bars and tied for seventh on the floor.
Pearson tied for third on the vault, was fifth on the bars and tied for ninth on the beam and tied for 10th on the floor,
Hayter took fifth on the floor and sixth on the bars and tied for ninth on the beam and vault.
Taylor Plante was third in the Provincial 2 open division while winning the bars, taking second on the beam and floor and fourth on the vault.
The P2 argo saw Casey Patsula finish ninth, Keara Slimmons 10th and Ruby Butler 12th.
Patsula was sixth on the bars, tied for eighth on the beam and tied for 10th on the floor.
Slimmons tied for fifth on the bars and tied for sixth on the beam while Butler was fifth on the vault, tied for seventh on the bars and tied for 10th on the floor.
Molly Hall-Jarrett placed eighth in the P3 tyro with Sydney Larsen 18th and Mataya Rideout 20th.
Hall-Jarrett won the floor and tied for third on the vault while Larsen tied for sixth on the floor and Rideout tied for seventh on the vault and was eighth on the floor.
Lina Koller placed eighth in the P4 novice division while Tahlysa Hanson took 15th and Kyra Gamelin 16th in the P1 argo class.
Koller tied for fifth in the vault, tied for sixth on the bars and was eighth on the beam and floor.
Hanson was second on the vault, eighth on the floor and ninth on the bars while Gamelin tied for ninth on the beam and was 10th on the floor.