While snowbanks and slow-starting cars may make it feel as though a vernal thaw is still ages away, the competition was unmistakably heating up at the St. Albert Gymnastics Club over the weekend.
From Friday to Sunday, the club welcomed over 400 athletes from across Alberta to participate in its annual Spring Flip Invitational event.
The gymnasts, who ranged in age from five to 19, competed in the Canadian Competitive Program events one through eight, as well as all Xcel categories (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond).
Performing in front of an enthusiastic hometown audience, the hosting club closed out the weekend with an impressive collection of hardware: five All Around Champions, six All Around Silver medallists, and one All Around Bronze medallist, in addition to 15 individual event champions, 19 event silver medallists, and 17 event bronze medallists.
Isabelle Swallow was one of the athletes who had an exceptionally impressive weekend, winning first AA in Level 8.
“This meet was a big confidence boost for Isabella heading into trials to Western Canadian Championships in Red Deer in two weeks,” said Zoe Spaans, St. Albert Gymnastics Club's (SAGC) executive director.
As Spans points out, the Spring Flip is part of the preparation plan for the athletes moving toward the most important meets of the year: provincials, and the spring trials for westerns.
“Invitational competitions such as ours give the athletes experience in order to help them be more resilient in competitions when they get to the higher levels.”
Aside from the action taking place on the mats, vaults, beams, and bars, the Spring Flip is also a big opportunity for the SAGC itself. Putting on an event of this scale is a major undertaking, one that can have a significant organizational impact when carried out successfully.
“It represents a huge fundraiser for our club, and it helps to showcase our club and programs positively within the gymnastics community,” said Spaans. “It's a wonderful opportunity to host other clubs, to get to know their coaches, and to bring about positive relations.”
As is the case for any event of this scale, a smooth weekend doesn’t occur without months of planning… and jumping a few last-minute hurdles.
“Hands down our biggest logistical challenge is parking," Spaans said.
“The second biggest challenge is ensuring we have enough volunteers to work the meet. We couldn't do it without them. Lucky for us, we have an awesome parent group who are willing to chip in where needed."