USA Gymnastics is the governing body nation wide for gymnastics. Two third grade students from Alto participated in a recent meet, both placing in the top 10. Wilson Johnston and Tate Outman represented the Lowell community at the event, showing their time and dedication to the sport is paying off.
Both Johnston and Outman have been training at Empowered Athletics since July of last year. The new gym in Wyoming, MI is still under construction, anticipating an official opening in April. This hasn’t stopped them from training athletes well enough to compete and place during Michigan meet.
Infants are able to participate in a recreation program and typically between the age of six and seven, kids are moved to a team. The sport is skill based so age is not the deciding factor for advancement. Once an athlete is able to safely participate in events at a certain level, he or she is able to move forward.
Empowered Athletics is designated by the US Olympic Committee and the International Gymnastics Federation as a member of USA Gymnastics. USA Gymnastics competitions follow International Gymnastics Federation guidelines. Boys compete in floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bar. Competition at USA Gymnastics events are completed in this order at all meets.
Emily Albert and Joe Swinehart coach kids at the facility. Johnston practices 10 hours a week and Outman puts in seven hours a week in the gym.
Tate Outman has been involved in gymnastics since 2011 and Wilson Johnston is a relative newcomer starting his training in 2016. The two are best friends and enjoy sharing interest in an extracurricular activity. They both competed at Level 5, Division 1 in the most recent state meet for Michigan USA Gymnastics on March 24. Level and division information is explained on the USA Gymnastics’ webpage. The competition was held at Oakland University.
Outman and Johnston respectively placed 7th and 8th All Around at the end of the day. Outman also was given the Rising Star Award by the state committee, which is awarded for showing improvement, effort, and team spirit. The pair would have qualified to compete at regionals, however, many gyms do not send students to this level of competition until they reach Level 6.
Outman enjoys rings and horizontal bar. Pommel horse can be a challenge for him, but that doesn’t stop his dedication. “My most favorite event is floor but I also like the horizontal bar. I love to flip!” says Johnston of his favorite event. And he agrees with his buddy when it comes to the difficulty and challenge involved in training on pommel horse. Part of the enjoyment when it comes to competition is meeting other athletes according to Johnston.
Younger gymnasts practice and compete on an apparatus called a mushroom before moving to the pommel horse. This allows athletes to master movements and skills prior to adding hand holds. Flairs, named after gymnast Thomas Flair who invented the move, and spindles are the basic moves performed on a pommel horse. Legs split then come together when doing a flair and remain together while performing a spindle. Each move involves the circular rotation of legs such that each arm must be lifted to complete the rotation. It takes strength, agility, concentration, and a lot of hard work to be able to work on a mushroom making sure only one or two hands are in contact with the equipment.
Outman and Johnston believe they will compete together in the future during an Olympic Games. Johnston has plans to get a degree in education from University of Michigan, then a Masters in educational psychology, while competing on the men’s gymnastics team. Outman also has ambitions of attending UofM and competing in gymnastics.
These two young men may be *only* third grade students to some, but they show dedication and are reaching for their goals in ways some adults strive to obtain. Tate and Wilson are on a path to do great things with their lives and inspire others along the way.
Photos provided by Cindy Johnston and used with permission.