KEARNEYSVILLE - Girl power is alive and well.
If you want to see it work, visit the Flip N Cheer Gym in Kearneysville. They don't just teach girls gymnastics, they perfect it.
In the recent West Virginia Junior Olympic State Championships held in Parkersburg, 31 of the 37 girls ages 7-14, representing Flip N Cheer Gymnastics and the Eastern Panhandle, brought home first-place trophies in the four event categories of vaulting, balance beam, horizontal bars and floor competition. They also collected trophies for placements in the top 10 rankings.
Hundreds of girls from all over the state of West Virginia participated in the competition.
Seven of the Flip N Cheer team members took home first place in the all-around, meaning they had the highest combined average scores of all the categories.
The all-around state champions were Nola Hartman (age 8), Samantha Ogden (age 10), Lena Pope (age 8), McKenna Valasek (age 9), Isabella Lein (age 14), Ella Kerr (age 7) and Sara Heirgeist (age 10).
The Level 3 team took first place, while the Level 2 team and the Bronze team placed second. And even though their Level 4 team had the smallest team at the competition with three members, they were able to place third.
Flip N Cheer athletes also had some of the highest scores of the state championships. Based on the Olympic scoring system of 10 points, Archadia Bosley had a score of 9.75 on the floor exercise; Kiara Vega Leon scored 9.725 on the horizontal bars; and Abby Rice scored 9.85 on her floor exercise.
Flip N Cheer co-owners Melissa Carder and Dawn Robey credited their success to the girls' hard work and their coaches, Mirsad Mehic, a former Olympian from Yugoslavia, Morgan Rapsack and Patti Lein.
They "not only coach but also do all the optional choreography for the girls" Carder said.
"Coaches Corey Ketterman and Ruby Carder also have direct impact in training these girls," she said.
Flip N Cheer has been in business for more than seven years, originally focusing on recreational gymnastics, tumbling and parkour - a contemporary version of training with tumbling, vaulting and using a variety of gym equipment to improve agility and strength through the use of body flexation and physical fitness.
In the second year of operation, they transitioned their services to a wider range of gymnastics by obtaining certifications with USA Gymnastics, whose governing body is the U.S. Olympics organization. In addition to the recreational and Olympic forms of gymnastics training, they have also, at times, contracted with some local schools to offer cheerleading classes. Their biggest focus is on gymnastics.
"Our biggest success is always in the gym," Carder said. "Our team girls put in 5-18 hours a week learning and training in Olympic-based activities. These girls work so hard. They are really dedicated to their training. They love to compete."
Carder said one of the most interesting aspects of her business is the age of her competitors.
"Most of the girls here are under 12 years old, and they have already been here for several years," she said. "They put in their 5-10-plus hours every week, practice at home. They don't quit."
They just keep coming back for more.