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Young gymnasts shine at home-hosted meet

POLSON – The Head Over Heels gymnastics team, the Osprey, vaulted into their inaugural season with an intrasquad meet held at their home facility located in the Ridgewater Complex on Saturday.

More than 100 spectators came to cheer on the 16-member Osprey squad as they displayed their agility, strength and skill in the silver and bronze divisions of the USA Gymnastics Xcel sanctioned meet which was the first of its kind to be held in the Mission Valley.

The Xcel is a USA Gymnastics program designed to offer a broad-based, competitive alternative to the traditional USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic competitive programs, according to its website. The program provides gymnasts of varying abilities and commitment levels the opportunity for a rewarding gymnastics experience along with the opportunity to participate in competition without the intense time commitment.

Head Over Heels owner and Osprey coach Jessica Edwards said she and her staff chose the Xcel program because they understand the value of competition, the pursuit of excellence and the effect it has on the character of her gymnasts, their lifelong health and well-being. 

Even though several of the girls on the Osprey squad have been ready for competition for a few years, many more needed to qualify up a level in order to compete at many of the upcoming meets around the state.

So, this past summer Edwards and her staff decided to host a sanctioned meet to allow for the opportunity of qualification. Fellow Osprey coach Alysha Valentine put in long hours of study to become a certified meet director before registering the fully sanctioned USAG meet.

The long hours and hard work paid off, 15 of the 16 Osprey gymnasts scored higher than the minimum score required to advance to the next level. 

“This was beyond our dreams and expectations for our girls for their first meet,” Edwards said.

She added that though all the girls competed well and there were too many exciting moments to mention, the performances of Lauren Collinge and Taleah Hernandez stood out as a couple of her favorites.

Collinge won the gold in her division for her performance on the uneven parallel bars. “Lauren has been working super hard in practice, even coming to extra practices at Saturday Open Gyms,” Edwards said. “Lauren never puts herself forward, so she can sometimes be overlooked, but her efforts were recognized on Saturday when she received the gold medal for her performance on the uneven parallel bars.”

For 13-year-old Taleah Hernandez, she had a personal best during the first tumbling pass in her floor routine. “Taleah has been training her round-off, back handspring, back tuck, for a couple of months now, and she’s become competent at performing it,” Edwards said. “But, she has always wanted me to ‘be there’ spotting her on it. In her floor exercise at the meet, Taleah performed the full pass without me near. She was amazing.”

The Osprey will compete next during the Judge’s Open at Lone Mountain Gymnastics in Bozeman on Dec. 1-3. 

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