For a second year in a row, JCPRD’s Kansas Kips Gymnastics Team had a strong season and brought home some impressive wins from the State Gymnastics Championship which took place in late March.
“The Kansas Kips Gymnastics team had a great competitive season,” said Head Coach Alexis Jenkins. “The season started off with all ten athletes competing new compulsory and optional level routines. One of my proudest moments as a coach this year was at the first meet. Ruby K. (of Lenexa), one of the level 3 gymnasts who moved up from the recreational side of the program, received a fantastic compliment from one of the judges at her first meet as a Kansas Kip - ‘Alexis, her floor routine was absolutely phenomenal.’ There is no greater feeling than having a judge pull you aside to let you know how amazing one of your athletes did.”
Fast forward to the end of the season at the state gymnastics meet, which took place at Johnson County Community College.
“For the first time in seven meets, 50% of our athletes were competing alone due to the way the ages fell per session,” Jenkins said. “Believe it or not, I feel this did each athlete a favor as all Kansas Kips beat their all-around personal record. The Kips had two state champions; one level 6 athlete (Zohey S. of Shawnee) and one level 3 athlete (Ruby K.). Additionally, the Kips had three third place and two second place finishes, as well as several other top five accolades.”
Among Kips who finished in the top three in their respective age group were level 3 gymnast Ruby K. who placed fourth all around, placed highest all around of any Kips gymnast at the meet, placed second on vault, and was a state champion on the floor exercise; level 4 gymnast Evelynn T. of Shawnee who placed third on both vault and floor; level 5 gymnast Ava G. of Shawnee who placed second on floor; level 6 gymnast Claire E. of Shawnee placed second on vault; and Zohey S. was a state champion on the floor exercise.
“What surprised me was how well every single athlete competed at the state championship this year,” said Gymnastics Coordinator Kendra Martiny. “While we work to ensure our athletes peak when it matters most, its exceptionally rare for 100% of your gymnasts to have their best showing at their most important competition of the year. Not only did each of them exceed my expectations at the state meet, but I walked away knowing, regardless of how high their scores would place them on the podium, that the Kips competed to the very best of their abilities that day. Nothing makes you prouder as a coach.”
“The success of the team was no surprise to me as the athletes have put the blood, sweat, and tears into each practice,” Jenkins added. “The biggest surprise to me at state was the focus and desire to win as well as the fire in each athletes’ eyes. State championships can be a high-stress trigger for any athlete, and I feel that the girls went out and handled themselves with such grace and poise.”
The coaches noted there were two major factors which made this year’s state championships different from 2021.
“This was a unique year in that the USA Gymnastics Woman’s Development Program started a new round of compulsory (levels 1-5) exercises,” Martiny said. “On the compulsory side of the development program, gymnasts compete the exact same routines as every other athlete in their level, and they are judged based on their execution of those routines. Every eight years, USA Gymnastics changes the routines and some of the skill requirements, and this year kicked off the 2021-2029 cycle. So, not only did a majority of our athletes compete at a higher level than they did last year, but they all had to learn new routines.”
Jenkins added that there were also changes for two gymnasts who graduated to level 6 in the past year.
“The main difference from the state championships last year and this year is that Zohey and Claire moved up from competing in the compulsory level and into the optional level of gymnastics,” she said. “In optional gymnastics there are a set of guidelines, or level requirements and routines are built around them.”
When asked if the Kips’ success at the 2022 state meet represented the team building on its success at the 2021 championship, Martiny’s answer was nuanced.
“Yes and no,” she said. “Just because an athlete is successful one year, doesn’t always mean they’ll be equally successful the next season, especially if they move up to a higher level where the skills become more difficult. Unlike a lot of other sports, it’s not just the level of competition that increases from year to year. In gymnastics, the ‘game’ itself changes, as there are always going to be harder skills for these athletes to train and compete. Even the most elite gymnasts are only limited by their physical capabilities. Theoretically, there is always another flip or twist that could be added to a skill or jump to make it more difficult.
“So, in that sense, it’s difficult to build on the success from last year speaking only in terms of collecting medals and trophies. But what we have been able to build on from the last several successful seasons is the mindset that the Kansas Kips is a competitive program in the state of Kansas. When athletes on your team find success one year, it not only reinforces to them that they can achieve in this this sport as individuals, but it sets the precedent for their teammates that they can also find success when they work hard and put in the effort to perfect their skills.”
Jenkins noted that the team has roughly the same number of athletes as in 2021, although two level 4 Kips gymnasts hung up their leotards, and two new level 3’s joined the team.
“Moving forward, I would like to see the team expand by roughly five or six more athletes,” she said. “With how small our team is, I would also like to continue the ‘close-knit’ vibe I have created throughout the years, as well as making sure all athletes are having fun while learning, growing, and developing throughout the sport.”
“We truly do have something for nearly everyone interested in gymnastics,” Martiny said. “We offer classes for children as young as two years old and our classes progress to preschool, level 1, level 2, and level 3 for both boys and girls. We also started offering ninja gymnastics classes in the fall of 2020, and those have been incredibly popular, especially among school-age boys.”
For more about JCPRD gymnastic offerings, go to JCPRD.com/162/Gymnastics.