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CERSOSIMO: Parents a key component in Mitchell gymnastics

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CERSOSIMO: Parents a key component in Mitchell gymnastics
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Because of budget cuts in the school district, the Mitchell School High School gymnastics team began paying $8,000 per year to participate as a sanctioned sport four years ago.

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Who knew this would allow Mitchell's gymnastics program to bloom?

The MHS gymnastics program, along with the community's club program -- Mitchell Extreme Gymnastics Academy -- began working together to save the sport. As a result, Mitchell Gymnastics Booster Club Inc. was formed to raise money and support the program.

"To save gymnastics, we decided that it was going to have to involve everyone who was interested in it," MHS coach and founder of the MEGA Audra Rew said. "If a parent has a 6-year-old in the program, that child might want to do high school gymnastics someday, so the parents are interested in saving the high school team."

Trevor Dierks, treasurer of the booster club, said it was necessary to do what it took to save the sport.

"It was just important to save it for the girls that were already in the sport," said Dierks, whose daughter, Josie, is a member of the high school team and competes for MEGA. "Gymnastics is just one more opportunity for girls to be involved in athletics in Mitchell."

Rew said parents volunteer to work at the high school meets and are the ones who have helped gymnastics in Mitchell to progress to where it is now.

"We're just very parent-driven from MEGA all the way on up to high school," she said. "Our parents are so involved that it gives them more ownership in the sport and more dedication with their children. It just continues to build the foundation at the younger levels and they've put so much time and effort into fundraising, that it helps those kids stay stronger in the sport for a longer period of time."

With gymnasts and parents of all ages joining together, fundraising and the growth of the programs are soaring. The booster club has put on raffles, car washes and sold corporate banners, which are displayed where the high school team practices.

"I think the numbers are going to stay up," Dierks said. "I think all of the fundraising and work has really built camaraderie between the club and high school parents."

Other changes were also made within the high school program to cut budgets, such as the Kernels no longer renting out the Knights of Columbus Hall, saving $5,000 per year.

"It saved us money, but I love using this facility," said Rew, referring to practicing in the lower gymnasium at MHS. "I love being connected to the high school where the kids can see us and you feel part of your own high school."

Before the recreation gymnastics program was started in MEGA, an average of 60 to 75 kids were involved. Now with the recreation programs offered at the club along with competitive and high school gymnasts, MEGA had more than 500 kids participate in activities within the past year and a half.

"I believe gymnastics has a very high attrition rate," said Rew, adding the bulk of her club competitors are ages 7 through 9. "It is a very difficult sport and the more kids you start with at a young age, the more they are capable physically and mentally of staying with it longer."

With all of the involvement and with the numbers higher than ever, gymnastics in Mitchell is bound to reach new heights.

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Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.
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