Arts and Entertainment

Local gymnasts qualify for Junior Olympics

From left, Kaitlyn Bostrom, coach Shannon O’Hara and Alyssa Garza at the Region 2 Championships where Bostrom and Garza qualified for the Junior Olympics team competing in Norfolk, Va. later this month. - Courtesy photo
From left, Kaitlyn Bostrom, coach Shannon O’Hara and Alyssa Garza at the Region 2 Championships where Bostrom and Garza qualified for the Junior Olympics team competing in Norfolk, Va. later this month.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

by Shannon O’Hara

Special to Arts & Leisure

Two local gymnasts recently accomplished a dream of theirs by qualifying for the Junior Olympics in the sport of rhythmic gymnastics.

Kaitlyn Bostrom, 10, from Granite Falls, and Alyssa Garza, 13, from Marysville competed at the Region 2 Rhythmic Championships in Forest Grove, Ore. on April 18 and 19. They scored well enough at that competition to qualify for the Junior Olympic Championships to be held May 29-31 in Norfolk, Va.

Both girls competed at level five, and out of 20 girls, only 13 are eligible to attend the competition.

“[It’s] awesome,” said Bostrom. “I get to go to Virginia! It’s out of my state and halfway across the United States.”

Rhythmic gymnastics is different from the more popular artistic gymnastics. Instead of performing skills on the floor, vault, beam and bars, a rhythmic gymnast performs more dance skills, along with leaps, tosses and turns with a ball, rope, hoop, clubs, or ribbon.

“Beautiful, graceful, [and] unbelievably flexible,” is how Melissa Bostrom, Kaitlyn’s mother, describes the sport. “Remember at the Olympics when the girls competed with the ribbons in gymnastics? That is rhythmics.”

The girls practice year-round for the sport for nine hours a week at Pursuit of Perfection Gymnastics Academy in Marysville. They are coached by Shannon O’Hara. This is the first year Shannon has coached the girls.

A typical practice consists of warming up their bodies for 15 minutes by running or jumping, and then stretching for half an hour, which includes doing splits with one of their legs on a chair or high mat. After stretching out, they work on their skills, tosses and routines. Toward the end of practice they spend some time conditioning their muscles so they can perform their skills successfully.

George Gonzales, the owner of P.O.P. said she is excited to see these two girls make it to the Junior Olympics.

“It’s amazing to see the big turn around of the team,” she said. “[Shannon] has completely changed how they work and look at themselves. They didn’t think they could do this at the beginning.”

At the Regional competition Kaitlyn and Alyssa competed on floor, rope, hoop and ball. Kaitlyn competed in the Child C category against other girls who are 10 to 11 years old, and placed tenth. Alyssa competed in the Junior B age group with girls 14 to 15 years old within this calendar year. She won the floor event and placed second in the all-around.

One of the features Carolyn Garza, Alyssa’s mother, appreciates about the sport is the team relationship as well as the healthy aspects to competing in a sport.

“While the gymnasts have the camaraderie of being on a team year-round, they generally compete individually so any fears of letting down other teammates are dismissed,” she said. “The sport encourages healthy behavior and exercise as well as the importance of teammates supporting each other at meets as well as outside the gym environment.”

Both girls have been competing in the sport for several years. This is Kaitlyn’s fourth year on team, and Alyssa’s sixth year. In the past seasons, the hope to make it to the Junior Olympics was not there. This season, to have finally made it is extremely exciting for the girls and the parents.

“I have seen such a change in Kaitlyn and Alyssa this year, a renewed love of the sport and drive to succeed,” said Melissa Bostrom. “I feel a lot of it has to do with their Coach, Shannon O’Hara.  She has shown such faith in them, encouraging them and when needed, being tough to help them get past a stumbling block.  Her genuine joy and love of the sport has effected these girls in ways I never thought possible. I am very proud of Alyssa and Kaitlyn and Coach Shannon for this outstanding achievement.”

Alyssa shares this excitement. She is excited to be traveling to Va. and is excited to have made it so far.

“It’s really cool to think we get to go there after all these years,” she said. “It’s something I think we as a team have been looking forward to for a long time.”

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