SPEARFISH | With Northern Hills High Schools not fielding competitive gymnastics teams, Spearfish Gymnastics Academy provides an outlet for gymnasts of various ages and abilities.
The SGA has been in existence for 20 years. "We have over 320-350 kids in classes every week from ages 18 months through seniors in high school," said coach Lexie Cathcart.
The available programs include Tumble Bears, for children ages walking to four years old.
A Parent-Tot class is for ages walking to two years old and the parent participates in the class with child.
A Pre-school class is for children three to four years old.
"Tumble Bears is basically an introduction to gymnastics," said Cathcart.
The goal of the Tumble Bears Program is to help gymnasts with listening and socialization skills while working on increasing strength, coordination and self-confidence.
The Gym Kids program is for children of kindergarten age and up. The emphasis is on proper skill development and skill progression. This program consists of five levels per event (Vault, Bars, Beam, and Floor).
"This is the beginning of the developmental stage of gymnastics," said Cathcart.
SGA Ninjas is for children three years old and up. Ninja is an obstacle course-based class that teaches movement through obstacles and environments.
Obstacle courses are based off of American Ninja Warrior and focus on teaching strength, agility and focus.
"Ninja ia big hit with all the kids,” said coach Phil Summers.
Spearfish Gymnastics Academy offers a competitive team program that competes under the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic Program. This program is a competitive system of ten levels with Level 10 being the highest.
Competitive Team travels throughout the state of South Dakota and many other places around the country for competitions.
SGA has had a lot of success over the years including many state champion teams, individual state champions, Regional and national champions.
Spearfish graduated two gymnasts with college scholarships for gymnastics in the prestigious Southeastern Conference.
“Wynter Childers was our first level 10 gymnast," said Summers. "She hit level 10 at eight years old and was Junior Olympic national champion in 2015.
Childers, a sophomore, is currently competing on a full-ride scholarship at Alabama University.
Chelsey Christensen is a seven-time South Dakota state champion with three titles each in uneven bars and floor exercise and one in all-around.
She has qualified for the JO National Tournament twice, placing fourth on the balance beam, floor exercise and all-around. Christensen is competing at the University of Missouri.
Spearfish lists 47 gymnasts on the team.
"I've been in gymnastics for 14 years since I was three," said Mimi Lucido. "I think it's the atmosphere, teammates and coaches,” she said of her attraction to gymnastics.
"My goal is to compete in college gymnastics." Lucido will be signing at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, an NCAA Division III school.
Ruthie Wehring, 8, is entering her fourth season on the team. "I like everything about gymnastics and I get to meet new friends," she said. "It's fun. I want to go Elite and teach it when I get older."
Savanna Dunwoody, 10, is in her fourth season of gymnastics. "You get to meet new people and travel to different places," she said. "My goal is to make it to Regionals and make it to level nine or 10 next year."
Mitchell hosts the state meet March 16-18. Gymnasts in levels eight, nine and 10 attempt to qualify for the region meet in St. Paul, Minn. The national meet for level 10 gymnasts is in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 11-13.