Kate Ellis took a deep breath, readied herself, and launched.
With precision, the 11-year-old Perrysburg gymnast flew from one bar to the other Saturday during a three-day gymnastics competition for more than 1,200 girls.
Teammates cheered and puffs of chalk exploded from the girl’s hands as she grasped the higher bar after leaping from the lower one.
“I like the [uneven] bars best because you feel like Superman flying through the air,” said Kate, who competed with her team from Toledo Turners Gymnastics during the competition at the SeaGate Convention Centre in downtown Toledo.
RELATED GALLERY: Click here to view photos from the event.
Thirty-six teams from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania attended the all-female “battle of champions” event at the convention center. Four Toledo-area teams competed in the event, which included vault, uneven bars, beam, and floor exercises.
“It’s about discipline, goal-setting, and keeping their bodies in shape,” said the event’s director, Pam Halker of Halker’s Gold Gymnastics in Columbus Grove, Ohio.
The uneven bars are also a favorite for Laney Saxe, 9, of Sylvania.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 1½,” the girl said between events. “When I was young, I was really crazy, so my mom put me in gymnastics.”
Unlike high bar and rings, gymnasts are not lifted onto uneven bars. Instead, the gymnasts mount the bar themselves; springboards are permitted.
Kevin McKee, a physical education teacher at Ottawa Hills Elementary who coaches for Sunrise Gymnastics in Sylvania Township, said the sport and the weekend competition are positive experiences for the girls, who range in age from 5 to 18. The event ends today.
“They get a taste for competition and see what other gyms are doing,” Mr. McKee said. “It’s a process, growing up with gymnastics, because they can start at 2 years old.”
John Reyst of Royal Oak, Mich., cheered on his daughter, Mia, 11, as she warmed up to perform on the beam.
“You always worry about them getting hurt,” Mr. Reyst said. “She fell on the beam once and hit her chest, and she was kind of winded but shook it off.”
Stacy Boisselle of Ottawa Lake wasn’t worried her daughter Libby, 9, would be injured.
“I am more nervous about her missing a skill,” she said.
Competitors are deducted points for each error during an event. Generally, two judges scored each gymnast, and their scores were averaged.
The girls had fun, often cheering and laughing, but competition was intense for many.
Madison Soleau, 10, who competes with Sunrise Gymnastics, logs all her scores after each event.
“She is just really hard on herself,” said Madison’s mother, Trisha Soleau. “This is a huge commitment. There are seven meets a year, and they practice three times a week for 2½ hours each practice.”