For Ferndale’s Gym Star Sports Center, the past year was an ongoing process of navigating unexpected changes and preparing for what may come. With gymnasts unable to be in the gym, coaches quickly created methods to work with their athletes remotely.

A recent Saturday afternoon gymnastics practice at Gym Star Sports Center. Photo credit: Tony Moceri

“We started daily Zooms with our girls to keep them engaged and positive and ready to get back in the gym whenever we could,” says head coach Nikki Curry. “One day we would do mental gymnastics work with them, the next day flexibility, and every day we added some strength and conditioning.” To keep things fun during such a challenging time, the coaches created competitions and dropped off treats at the winners’ doorsteps.

Forty-two girls returning to in-person practice meant navigating numbers and time away. They had smaller practices and followed all the local and national guidelines for sanitizing, spacing, and mask wearing. In addition to being COVID-safe, the coaches made sure the gymnasts were physically safe, as well.

“We came in at the beginning and were just really slow. We didn’t want to pull anything or get injured,” says Curry. “I felt like our recovery, back to their skills, was quicker because they had done so much work staying strong and mentally in the game.” The coaching staff was proud of how hard the athletes worked outside of the gym. In such a uniquely challenging time, the gymnasts handled themselves well and stayed positive.

Sam Toepper displaying her skills on the beam. Photo courtesy Nikki Curry

When the 2020 state competition was canceled, the team looked forward to 2021—whatever that might look like. In the end, the team was able to participate in all of its meets.

“Some were challenging [because] parents couldn’t come in and kids had to work out in masks,” Curry says. “But the fact they got through a whole season and were able to compete and have success really helped them cope with the larger share of what COVID was doing to their social lives and school time.”

The season, which began in January of 2021, was all about flexibility. Dates of meets often changed and some had to happen virtually, but the coaches from different teams worked together to make the season a success.

The Gym Star team competed in the Washington State championship meet, where Sam Toepper, age14, Bella Burns, age 14, and Campbell DeJong, age 13, all qualified for the regional championship meet.

Campbell Dejong competing in floor at the state meet in Tacoma. Photo courtesy Nikki Curry

DeJong, who competes at level 8, finished 4th on beam and vault and 6th all around. Due to a scheduling conflict, she was unable to attend the regional meet.

Burns, competing at level 7, landed regional meet vault champion with a score of 9.225 and finished 7th all around with a score of 36.60.

Toepper, also competing at level 7, tied for 5th on floor with a score of 9.6 and was 8th in all around with a score of 36.40.

The regional meet, which took place in Helena, Montana, was a four-day competition with 900 athletes from six different states. Skill levels ranged from level 6–10. Taking into account the unconventional road these athletes traveled this year, their coaches—and everyone at Gym Star—were incredibly proud of their successes, reached through determination and dedication to the sport they love.

Next season Toepper, and Burns will move up to level 8 for competitions and Dejong will move to level 9.

Bella Burns receives her first place medal for vault at the state meet in Tacoma. Photo courtesy Nikki Curry

USA Gymnastics System has two main programs and Gym Star Sports Center offers both the Junior Olympic track and the Xcel Track. The Junior Olympic track has compulsory levels 2–5 and higher levels of 6–9. Level 10 is the highest level and there is currently no one at that level in the program. The Xcel track is less technical and does not advance as far as the Junior Olympic track, but gives kids the opportunity to compete in gymnastics while having the ability to participate in other sports. Gym Star Sports Center starts their Xcel team at the silver level and goes up to the diamond level.

Gym Star Sports Center offers recreational gymnastic classes beginning with Toddlers thru to young adults! There are a variety of classes available for  kids to get in the gym and try it out, as well as the team classes for Xcel and Junior Olympics. Registration is happening now for summer camps for all  levels. In addition to gymnastics, Gym Star offers Parkour, dance and Barre classes through Stellar Dance Studio and is home to Shooting Stars Preschool. More information can be found on their website or by calling 360-384-3861. Gym Star Sports Center is located at 5519 Hovander Rd #109 in Ferndale.

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