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Gymnasts in the Verde Valley are learning their craft at a young age, and many are beginning to compete at a high level in statewide competitions.


Flip City gymnastics in Cottonwood fielded a team of competitors at the Level 3 State Championships on Nov. 15 in Phoenix, including, bottom row, from left: Aiyonna Sandoval, age 8; Tyra Gabaldon, 11; Joelle Santiago, 11; Faith Knister, 11; and top row, from left: Kennedy Nasch, 9; Janicia Ramirez, 9; Aysha Khalil, 9; Grace Sauer, 10; Shania Moore, 7; Nicole Irwin, 8; and Taylor Pennington, 11.Flip City Gymnastics center in Cottonwood, the only gymnastics center in the Verde Valley, took 15 girls to the 2013 Arizona Level 3 State Championships, Nov. 15 through 18, at Phoenix Gymnastics Center and came away with an eighth-place showing out of the 29 teams that entered.


Several of the girls finished near the top of their divisions, including Joelle Santiago, who took second place in the Junior 8 division; Janicia Ramirez, who took second place in the Junior 2 division; Aysha Khalil, third-place finisher in the Child 8 division and Shania Moore, fifth-place finisher in the Child 2 division.


Khalil, in fact, took first place in her division in the floor exercise, making her the state champion of her age group in that discipline.


“Joelle Santiago was in a tough age division but took second place by only one-tenth of a point and Janicia Ramirez also was second by only one-tenth of a point.” said Dianne Upham, director of Flip City Gymnastics. “Shania Moore took third on floor — she’s up-and-coming — and Nicole Irwin did well on vault. We were very strong overall as a team on the vault.”


In addition to being a gymnastics center, Flip City is a licensed preschool facility where Upham and coach Jared Cummins teach gymnastics to kids starting at age three.


“They do gymnastics every day or some type of physical fitness while they’re learning and go to school,” Upham said. “We have 22 kids that come three days a week in the mornings for three hours a day, and that will make for great little gymnasts somewhere along the line.


“Shania [Moore] started when she was 16 or 17 months old in the Mommy and Me class. You can’t compete until you’re 6, but we have about 20 more girls who will be eligible to compete next year.”

For the full story, please see the Friday, Dec. 13, issue of the Sedona Red Rock News.


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