BY JOE GORDEN
Once every four years, the Olympic spotlight shines on sports that get little attention otherwise, and people who seldom give those lesser-known sports a thought otherwise suddenly and briefly become fans. Likewise, the Olympics arouses interest among would-be athletes.
Gymnastics is, perhaps, the best example of a sport that benefits from an influx of both fans and participants during Olympic years.
“It’s a real big motivator for our gym,” said Brenda Uzelac, owner and head coach of Uzelac Gymnastics in Richland. “The parents see all this and want their kids to be little Olympians. It helps the gymnastic community at this time.”
But Uzelac Gymnastics was experiencing a good run even before the Olympic glow kicked in a few weeks ago. Thirty-eight gymnasts from the Richland facility – the entire team – qualified for the state meet, and six combined to bring home eight titles.
Amanda McGee captured Level 9 vault, Nicole Coukart took Level 4 all-around and balance beam, Aleah Kehn captured Level 4 all-around and balance beam, Morgan Gossard won Level 5 vault, Keyli Smith took Level 4 uneven bar and Courtney Mihalko won Level 4 uneven bar.
“This is probably our best year ever,” Uzelac said. “We have six state champions. For everyone to make it this year, and to have that many all-around and individual champions ... it was our best year.”
It being an Olympic year, the team got to celebrate in a special way.
“We went to Olympic Trials in Philadelphia, and they got to watch the trials and get autographs,” Uzelac said. “We watched the men’s and women’s competition, and two of my girls – Amanda McGee and Casey McGee – got to be runners on the floor working the meet for them.”
But, the success of Uzelac Gymnastics goes beyond that strong showing at the state level. The business also has benefited by moving from the Industrial Park to the former Richland Area High School and creating a partnership with the East Hills Recreation Commission.
BY JOE GORDEN
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