Local gymnasts able to showcase talents

By Ivan Sanders

   JOHNSON CITY--With the incredible success experienced in recent years by the United States gymnastics team at the international level, including several medals at the Olympic Games, there has been an increased desire by young men and women here in the Tri-Cities and surrounding area toward learning how to one day compete at the same level.
   Premier Gymnastics in Johnson City is one such location that these young people can experience and sharpen their skills as they progress in the world of gymnastics. The local public will get an opportunity on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Premier's facility to see first hand the real world of gymnastics as 97 gymnasts will converge for the opportunity to collect some hardware for their hard work.
   Elizabethton will be represented in the competition by four ladies competing on the level 4 and 5 girls competitive team. Sarah Weddle, Amanda Schultz, Megan Devotie and Hannah Devotie will carry the banner into competition as the girls are either residents of Elizabethton or have a large bulk of their family residing locally.
   Premier began operating in the area in 1999 with a focus on trying to find a fun way to help kids stay physically fit. From its inception the gym has done nothing more than quadruple in size, with a present participating group of around 500 to 550 kids.
   "We've been very successful at reaching kids from the kids here in the Johnson City, Elizabethton, Kingsport and Bristol area, as well as having kids come in from North Carolina and Virginia," stated manager and co-owner Herman Rary. "Our competitive teams have been very successful in years past as we have had several gymnast qualify for the USA Gymnastics Nationals."
   The gym presently has competitive teams that are composed of 32 girls and 18 boys. Level 4 & 5 girls team coached by Julie Lucy and composed of 16 girls, will represent Premier for this particular competition against roughly eight other teams.
   "This will be a great opportunity for not only the parents, but grandparents, family and friends to watch these kids in a competitive environment without having to drive a long way," said Lucy. "We usually compete in 8 or 9 competitions within a 4-5 hour travel range, but this one is right here in Johnson City and everyone can come and watch."
   Gymnastics is not just about flipping, jumping, tumbling, and running, but it presents so many other rewarding aspects to those that participate.
   Said Rary: "Most of these kids are good students, but gymnastics really drives these girls to learn discipline in life. They have to learn how to practice three to three and a half hours and then still get their school work completed. It allows them to see how important it is to stay focused on the task that needs to be completed and teaches time management to them."
   Premier Gymnastics prides itself on another feature that is aimed at being an active part in the community.
   "We offer Friday Night Kids Night where parents can drop their children off and have a night to themselves while the kids can do various things under adult supervision here," said Rary. "We sponsor Drop & Shop, birthday parties, school field trips, and camps during school break where parents can bring their children to a safe place while they work."
   Two people cannot run the show alone. Premier also is very blessed to have USAG certified and professional members to provide quality training while emphasizing safety as well. These staff members are former gymnasts and collegiate performers.
   "I couldn't get everything over to these girls without my assistants, Kelly Fuller and Courtney Sams," quipped Lucy. "They have been a tremendous help."
   The public is encouraged to come out for a day of exciting gymnastics and support the athletes of Premier Gymnastics. Registration and warm-ups begin at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday and the competition begins at 2 p.m. as various activities will be going on simultaneously.
   "We would really like to see all these girls be represented well by their family and friends," stated Lucy. "They will be surprised by the skills and athleticism these young girls possess while having a fun time as well."