Gymnastics program on a tightrope

Gymnastics in question as other districts cut their programs

Pirouetting+%E2%80%94+Junior+Eliana+Seidner+does+her+routine+on+the+balance+beam+at+the+Sunflower+League+Meet+at+LHS+on+Oct.+8.+Seidner+finished+the+event+in+17th+place+and+tied+for+14th+in+vault.+The+team+took+fifth.+

Olivia Percich

Pirouetting — Junior Eliana Seidner does her routine on the balance beam at the Sunflower League Meet at LHS on Oct. 8. Seidner finished the event in 17th place and tied for 14th in vault. The team took fifth.

By Gary Schmidt, Sports Editor

For 44 years, gymnastics has been offered as a 6A sport to girls wishing to compete.

As soon as next year however, it may not be around.

In the past few years, talks of cutting the program have been discussed, due to lower numbers of athletes and lower numbers of schools choosing to participate in the program, according to Cheryl Gleason, the Assistant Executive Director for the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA). Last summer, talks were held between administrators of the Shawnee Mission School District and the Olathe School District regarding the future of the sport. Those two districts represent nine out of the 13 schools that compete in gymnastics, and if they decide to not participate, gymnastics for the entire state will be finished.

“The Activities Association is going to offer the program as long as schools want to participate in them. If the schools choose to not participate, then when we get to eight schools or fewer, then that program will probably not have a state championship series,” Gleason said.

As recently as a few weeks ago, both districts notified their programs that this would be the last year of gymnastics.

And if these districts decide to drop the sport, that would also mean the four remaining schools, Emporia, Newton, Free State and Lawrence High would have to drop the program.

Gymnasts at Lawrence High are not taking the news lightly.

Canceling the program would mean that many athletes, such as junior Eliana Seidner, would have to miss out on the opportunity to compete in their senior seasons.

“I have done gymnastics for 12 years, so it is really hard for me to not be able to have a senior year. I guess I am just going to have to find something to replace it,” Seidner said. “I don’t know that anything can replace the love for the sport I have.”

Despite the dismal outlook on the program, coaches and athletes alike are looking for alternatives to invest their time in, assuming the sport is cut.

Many of the girls plan to try other sports, such as cheer or Pom, while others may continue gymnastics, competing for local club teams, according to Seidner.

Better yet, due to the efforts of Free State and Lawrence High gymnastics coach, Brooke Santee, girls may still have some way to compete and represent their schools, independent of KSHSAA.
Santee is one of the leaders for a prospective program called AHSAGA, the American High School and Adult Gymnastics Association, which would offer gymnastics to girls in a model similar to the current program, however it would be run independent of the high schools.

And if this were to fully come through, perhaps at least some aspects of high school gymnastics could be saved.

“When I told the girls about it after they talked about canceling the high school program, all of them raised their hands to continue doing it through a different program,” Santee said.