COLUMBIA — After the Show-Me State Games individual gymnastics competition Saturday, the main arena at Hearnes Center began to empty. But there was still one more event to complete.
Only the Show-Me Gymnastics and South County Twisters teams stuck around for the team competition. Not even 20 participants remained. Despite the limited competition, neither team regretted the decision to participate in the four-routine event.
Show-Me Gymnastics, a Columbia based group, sees the team competition as a low-stakes opportunity for its athletes to test limits or explore new areas. Team member Angie Kern, a senior at Rock Bridge High School, said the event offers a change of pace after the more intense individual competition.
"We always stick around for the team event just because it gives people the chance to do things they wouldn't be able to," Kern said. "It's got a relaxed kind of feel."
For Xarria Lewis, it meant an opportunity to try a vault with a higher difficulty than she usually attempts. She was successful, executing a number of flips on her approach, corkscrewing through the air after hitting the vault and making a sure landing.
“It’s more fun,” Lewis said of the team competition. “You don’t have to worry about scores or anything.”
Kern said the event was in line with the environment Show-Me Gymnastics tries to foster. The pressure was off, but those who wanted to better themselves were encouraged to do so.
“It’s a nice, relaxed atmosphere, but they can also be really stern about it," Kern said. “If you want to do something, you go do it.”
For the Twisters of the South County YMCA in St. Louis, the event means as much for the coaches as it does for their students. The Show-Me State Games represents the one chance the instructors have to get in on the competition. Coach Lauren Pounds, 28, said the event is an opportunity for the staff to feel young again.
"We all still love the sport," Pounds said. "It's fun for our kids to actually see that we can kind of do gymnastics, and we know what we're talking about."
The event wrapped up just after Pounds’s uneven bars routine earned a hearty round of applause from the remaining spectators.
The scores were read, and the medals were doled out. As both teams crowded onto the podium for the overall team awards – Show-Me Gymnastics took the gold while the Twisters earned silver – it was clear that the results were secondary to the experience.
Secondary to having a good time, too. After the scores were announced, the gymnasts rushed off to a much more pressing matter: an impromptu dance party out where the floor exercise had taken place.