Since Flip City Gym opened in Cottonwood the talent level of their gymnasts has been steadily increasing. The most recent Arizona state championship meet was evidence they have arrived as one of the top gyms in the state.
The way gymnastics competitions work is kids are divided into levels according to age and ability. They receive scores from judges based on execution. The scores count toward an individual and a team score.
Flip City's level-four team took second at the state meet. Level-four Cadence Nislycalaci took second overall by placing first in vault and bars. Anna Bramblett, Saya Federbush and Adrianna Moody were other top-performing level-four Flip City gymnasts that helped the team earn second place.
Moody performed her floor routine in practice Monday. She got first in that event at the state meet. Her style, grace, and fluid movement sets her apart. What's more amazing is she's only been doing gymnastics for two years.
When she started her skills were lacking, but she got to where she is today with hard work and never giving up.
"My skills have improved a lot. When I started my bar score was a four, now it's a 9.3," said Moody.
Flip City Director Dianne Upham has been amazed by Moody's persistence.
"She just kept getting back up," said Upham.
"I amaze myself sometimes," said Moody. "I never thought I would be this good."
Nislycalaci was another top performer. She is the team spark plug. It's no surprise her strongest event is vault.
"I like running. It makes me feel good, like I can pound out the floor and get all my anger out," said Nislycalaci. "I was never scared of the vault. I like it."
Nislycalaci says she likes to push herself to the limit.
"I want to get to the Olympics," said Nislycalaci. "I can get there if I try hard in practice and don't mess around."
Sharon Goglin took first overall in level five by scoring first on bars, beam, and floor. She's a freshman at Mingus who has been doing gymnastics for eight years.
"I'm a really competitive person, so gymnastics fits my personality," said Goglin. "Beam is my favorite. Last weekend I was better at bars, but I'm usually best at beam."
Goglin scored first in all her events except vault.
Balancing school with gymnastics can be tough, but Goglin, as well as all the other gymnasts put school first.
"Every one of my team kids is a straight-A student," said Upham. "That's not a coincidence. I think they learn to focus and get their schoolwork done so they can come to gymnastics. You find that in a lot of gymnasts."
Another interesting tidbit is most of them love math. No one can definitively say why that is, but maybe because it's a subject that builds on itself at every level. There is a constant progression, just like in gymnastics.
Several other girls from Flip City placed high at the state meet in their best events as well.
Aleonna Sanchez is a level six. She took second overall by placing high in vault, beam, and floor.
"I've been doing gymnastics for five and a half years. I started when I was seven. It's a lot of fun and when I'm here I forget about everything else. When I do well and my family is proud of me it feels really good," said Sanchez.
Upham said Sanchez is really good at blocking everything out and hyper focusing. She's persistent and she observes the older girls to improve her technique.
"When I'm learning a new trick I just try it over and over until I get it," said Sanchez. "I want to go to college with gymnastics."
The way things are going at Flip City it's only a matter of time before they start cranking out that top-level talent.
The best part about the growth, there's no end in sight. Upham built the program from the ground up and she's always looking for ways to improve her facility and create positive programs for the community.
She's expanding around the state too. Over the summer she bought a gym in Prescott Valley.
"I've only had the Gym in Prescott Valley since July. It's been a huge transition. When I purchased the gym there were about 70 kids over there, 25 of them were competitive, none of them were recreational. Now we have over 200 there. It's grown tremendously," said Upham.
How was she able to pull off that kind of growth so fast? She did it by opening the gym up to recreational gymnasts. Not everyone wants or is able to compete, but many people can benefit from working out in the gym and improving their core strength.
"I think the conditioning and the core strength you get from gymnastics, there's nothing like it. You have to be strong, but you also have to be flexible. Once you're a gymnast, all sports come easier to you," said Upham.
Flip City takes pride when they see former members excelling at other sports in high school. Gymnastics is a sport that is completely transferable to all types of physical activity, and it's beneficial for a wide range of ages.
One of the newer programs at Flip City is a preschool designed to teach kids ABCs and 123s as well as lay down a good foundation for an active lifestyle.
"This is our second year doing our gym and learn. Last year we had about 40 kids, now we have about 65 because we also started a kinder-start program," said Upham.
The program has been so successful there is a waiting list to get in. Boys and girls attend the school.
"I always tell moms, if you have a two or three-year-old boy and they can't sit still, put them in gymnastics. Some kids need that physical outlet so they can be a better student," said Upham.
What started as a mom wanting to teach her children and their friends how to do a proper cartwheel has turned into an important Cottonwood mainstay. Without Flip City there would likely be no gymnastics in Cottonwood. It's only a matter of time before they start producing college athletes regularly.