FULTON — It was a rainy Saturday morning in Fulton, but instead of being inside on the couch or computer, a group of gymnasts were continuing to put in some hard work in the gym.
That’s because they’re state-worthy competitors. They all hail from Great River Gymnastics in Fulton, where Justin Thoms has created a program that’s producing high level gymnasts.
Thoms took over the gym three years ago. His daughter wanted to compete and they didn’t see many options they were happy with. So, they decided to make their own program. Now they’re starting competitions as a group, and they’re already exceeding expectations.
“We’ve only been preparing for competing since November,” coach Justin Thomas said. “This is our first year ever competing. For them to come this far is tremendous.”
The girls, ages five to 13, have just started getting into competitions but are heading to state competition in hopes of qualifying for regionals. That means they’ve had to learn new skills on things like the bar and the beam in addition to their regular flips, splits and turns. To qualify for state competition, they needed to score 34. Thoms says most of his athletes are averaging around 38 at meets. A perfect score in 40.
“When we first started this year we didn’t know how far we would make it,” Thoms said. “Every single one of them has qualified for state this year and the majority of them are going. It’s very exciting to see them get here.”
The program has grown from the tumbling program it used to be. Great River Gymnastics started with just four athletes and now has over 20. Plus, Thoms held tryouts just this weekend.
If you see a practice, you can see how passionate the girls are about the sport. The fact that Thoms and his staff are coaching athletes as young as five doesn’t really come into play when you have girls who want to success.
“Dedication. These girls come here hours every week, they never leave,” Thoms said, “They practice day in and day out. For them to go out from no experiencing in competing to this in a year and a half is amazing.”
That’s everything from grueling core workouts, new flips on the balance beam, or memorizing a brand new floor routine. They work on all of it. They all know that that’s why they get to make this trip to state.
“I think it made us all really happy that we got to go to state because of the scores that we got,” Brooklyn Thoms said.
“It shows that I’ve worked my hardest to get to get to that point,” Emery Wary said.
“We basically trained really hard for this,” Emma Schmitz said. “A couple months ago we did four hours in four days and we’ve been working really hard for this.”
When coming into competition for the first time, though, they had to try some things they’ve never done before. They had to learn how to work on the uneven bars and to do trick on the beat, along with floor work and vaulting.
They’ve learned to like the challenges too. Elaina likes the bars best because her father “says she looks like a monkey”. Ellie likes the bars because she likes to learn to skills. Heaven likes vault the best because she’s won first place at every meet she’s gone to. Emery likes floor because she likes to be able to express herself.
Overall, the girls are just excited. Not all of them are making the optional trip to the state meet, but they’re excited for the success they’re seeing nonetheless. And they should be, they certainly put in the work to get there.