Blythe Family Fitness will play host to 660 gymnasts at the AAU State gymnastics competition April 27, 28 and 29.
It’s not the Olympics but there will be gymnasts galore this weekend in Pratt as Blythe Family Fitness plays host to the Amateur Athletic Union State competition.
Kristina Kaufman, Blythe Family Fitness executive director, said they have 660 athletes signed up for the three day event. About 75 percent of the athletes at the event will be girls. The age range will be first grade to senior in high school. With all those athletes, there will be a lot of chalk and glitter, Kaufman said.
The event will feature four gymnastic events: Uneven Bars, Vault, Balance Beam and Floor Exercise, said Janet Smith, coach of Southwest Elite Gymnastics that practices at Blythe. Team members for Southwest Elite come from Pratt, Medicine Lodge, Greensburg and Cunningham.
There are four judges. Each judge has to go through a training process and be qualified to judge at a sanctioned event. The judges at the Pratt event will come from Wichita.
Every gymnast will participate in every event. Gymnasts have to place first, second or third or get an all around score of 38 or higher to advance to the National AAU event in Tampa Bay at the end of June, Smith said.
To compete at State, a gymnast has to compete in at least sanctioned meet a year. There are form 10 to 12 Sanctioned meets in Kansas every year.
Blythe was picked to host the competition after a committee of 25 AAU coaches visited the facility, discussed running the meet and checked out the town for activities to do and places to eat while there is free time during the meet. They checked available parking and felt it was adequate for the event. The coaches were impressed with everything they saw.
“We passed with flying colors,” Kaufman said. “They loved the facility. They loved the flow. They couldn’t believe it was in such a small town. But the biggest reason was the hospitality. They just felt very welcome here. That’s why they picked us.”
Kaufman also has plans for goodie bags thanks to generous donations from several Pratt businesses.
With so many people coming to Blythe, Kaufman said she didn’t know if she should be happy or scared but happy won out.
Blythe played host to an AAU competition in 2017 and that event had 475 competitors. The success of that event helped secure the state competition.
At the event, athletes from ages 5 to 18 will compete starting at 3 p.m. on Friday and continuing all day Saturday and most of Sunday morning and afternoon. Gymnasts come from all over the state to compete at State.
At any given time, there are about 400 athletes scheduled to compete. Age groups are scheduled at various times throughout the day but not everyone competes at the same time. There is down time in the schedule and coaches and parents take that time to go out and discover the stores and shops in down town Pratt, Kaufman said.
Kaufman said she rented the gymnastic apparatus from a facility in Salina. She got use of a forklift and a place for the semi that hauled the apparatus from Southwest Truck Parts. Volunteers from the high school, Pratt Community College and the boys home will help unload the semi Friday morning.
Kaufman is also cooking for the coaches to feed them Friday night. The Sawyer Family Food Store is catering on Saturday.