Rifle gymnasts rule state meet
They may range in age from 7 to 11, but they did their part to put their tiny Rifle gymnastics academy on the map.Rifle Gymnastics athletes scored a big triumph last weekend, topping all Level 3 teams – 22, to be exact – at a state competition in Castle Rock.Instructor Jennifer Ruehmann and her young gymnasts operate out of Rifle Academy of Dance and Gymnastics, training in a small facility with limited equipment. Given the circumstances, Ruehmann and volunteer assistant Patty Kotz couldn’t have been more thrilled with the accomplishment. “They worked really hard and had a great meet,” she said, “considering the type of equipment we had. Right before the state meet, one of our balance beams broke, so we were practicing with one beam.”All told, the academy – which offers a primarily non-competitive curriculum – sent seven girls to the Level 3 meet. Jori Shaver of Parachute and Makena Church of Rifle led the way as far as individual performances went.Both scored first-place finishes in all-around competition, and Shaver added firsts in each the vault, bars, beam and floor. Church, 7, threw in firsts in the beam and floor and a third on the bars.Shaver, 11, said she wasn’t nervous. She credited a supportive training environment with easing her nerves.”The coaches are always supportive,” she said. “If you mess up, they always say, ‘That’s OK, that’s OK, just get up and do your best.’ Even in practice they just tell you to do your best.”Ruehmann, a gymnast growing up on the Front Range, and Kotz, a former collegiate gymnast at Kent State University, definitely have the pedigree to excel as coaches. Ruehmann hopes to move her girls up to Optional A-level next season, the aim being to keep the tight-knit group competing together.”They are all going to move up,” she said. “They’ll skip 4 and 5 and do Optional A. I want to keep them together as a group. They work well as a group.”
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