WENATCHEE — The S.P.O.R.T. Gymnastics training club of Wenatchee will host the Eastern Sectionals and Xcel state championships today through Sunday at Wenatchee High School.
S.P.O.R.T. owner and director Sue Harris and co-director Taryn Harris brought the meet — which will feature 515 competitors — to Wenatchee by bidding on it last spring.
The club claims champions from several levels throughout the past 12 years.
“We’re an extremely over-achieving club,” Sue Harris said. “We’re excited to have a big championship meet. It’s the first time a state championship has been held in Wenatchee.”
S.P.O.R.T. team member Alyssa Laney, 15, is a state champion favorite. She placed first out of about 200 competitors in her previous three meets, held in Seattle and Spokane last month.
The Xcel Program is a new division of USA Gymnastics; in its prototype year, it’s still configuring rules. The program will continue as a division designed to encourage new athletes, retain existing athletes longer and offer more training to Junior Olympic athletes in their offseason. Xcel has more flexible non-compulsory brackets than the regular compulsory level in the Junior Olympic program.
Laney competes at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the Platinum level, the highest level at this year’s Xcel championship.
The club provides training built around athletes’ needs. Many gymnasts cross-train during other sports, according to Taryn Harris.
“We have kids who come in once a week and kids who come in five times a week,” she said. “That way they can still do high school sports. It allows them to pick and choose what they want out of the sport.”
Taryn Harris was a multi-sport athlete herself. She’s been involved in gymnastics her whole life, but after she injured her wrist snowboarding, she switched to diving and competed at Northern Arizona University for four years, where she holds school records for 1- and 3-meter boards.
She graduated with a degree in business administration and returned to the Pacific Northwest to sit on the Washington State Board of Gymnastics as its youngest member.
She worked to bring the state championships to Wenatchee by convincing the board that Wenatchee had the facilities to host the sizable event and the hotels to support travelers.
“It helped that we have knowledge of Xcel, it being a brand-new program,” Sue Harris said.
S.P.O.R.T. has 32 gymnasts out of about 275 girls competing in Xcel’s state meet, the second largest team representation (Vancouver will have 50).
Along with Laney in the Platinum level, some favorites include Kaylee Coble, 11, in Gold; Anna Neace, 9, in Silver; and Berkeley Finegold, 8, in Bronze.
The Eastern Sectionals start at 2 p.m. today with level-four gymnasts; the qualifiers will compete in Seattle for a state championship.
Level-five and level-six gymnasts will start at 8 a.m. Saturday. They will be qualifying for the state meet, to be held in Spokane.
Tickets are available as a day pass or for single sessions of the meet. They are available at S.P.O.RT. Gymnastics and CrosSport Performance and cost $10 for adults and $8 for children 6 and older. Children 5 and younger will be admitted free.