Safe at home: KidzPlex gymnasts enjoy competing at local gym

Jessica Green, 15, of Grand Junction eyes the bar Saturday as she goes through her routine on the uneven bars during the Level 7 competition at the 25th annual Grand Junction Optional Invitational at KidzPlex Gymnastics.

Every athlete likes to have a warm-up before the season gets into full swing.

For the KidzPlex gymnasts, that was Saturday’s 25th annual Grand Junction Optional Invitational at KidzPlex on 25 road.

The meet featured 46 competitors from Level -7 and above representing gyms in Grand Junction, Vail, Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Montrose and Lincoln, Neb.

Saturday’s event was the first of five for the KidzPlex gymnasts, and it is the only meet held at their home gym.

“It’s great to have the first meet at home because they are comfortable in their own gym,” KidzPlex coach Kerri Bensley said. “They aren’t quite as nervous as they would be if they had to travel.”

KidzPlex Level 7 gymnast Emily Werman said it’s as simple as their familiarity with the gym.

“We are used to the equipment,” Werman said. “It’s a lot easier for us.”

Werman started off her day strong, earning an 8.9 in her bars routine.

“(The bars) went better than it ever did in practice,” Werman said. “In Level 7 it’s a lot harder to get a higher score.”

Werman finished second all-around in the Level 7 junior division with a 36.05. Although the KidzPlex competitors train year-round, Saturday was the first time performing new routines in front of judges.

Kerri Bensley said the gymnasts begin training for skills in the summer and put combinations together in the fall, but it wasn’t until December when they put their full routines together.

“When they are trying new skills you don’t know how they are going to respond,” Kidzplex coach Brian Bensley said. “This gives them a chance to make mistakes in a safe environment.”

Every meet following Saturday’s is a jump in intensity and competition for the KidzPlex gymnasts. Their next meet is Jan. 29 in Denver before one of the largest meets of the year Feb. 12 in Las Vegas.

“You get to meets like in Vegas and it’s huge. There are gyms from all over the country,” Brian Bensley said. “They are running multiple meets at one time and it’s intense.”

KidzPlex has a full schedule, as the regional competitions will be in Dallas and Oklahoma City, with the Level 9 nationals in San Diego.

“All the girls were nervous,” Brian Bensley said. “So it’s good to start here then we’ll be building up to bigger meets.”

The Level 7 senior results included Kelsie Kracht finishing first overall with a 34.875, Amanda Summers finishing second with a 34.825 and Myah Lewis finishing third with a 34.575.

In the upper divisions, Kaitlin Duran placed first all-around with a 34.425 in the Level 8 seniors. Jamie Madson finished second all-around in the Level 8 juniors with a 33.95.

In the Level 9 seniors, Tessa Kester finished first overall with a 35.8. Mary King placed second all around in the Level 9 juniors with a 34.9.


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