KSHSAA celebrates 44 years of gymnastics at state meet

Shawnee Mission North's Natalie Lanman completes her second and final vault on Saturday. Lanman tied for 16th on vault. She was 10th in the all-around.
Shawnee Mission North’s Natalie Lanman completes her second and final vault on Saturday. Lanman tied for 16th on vault. She was 10th in the all-around.

With the threat of gymnastics potentially not being a sanctioned Kansas State High School Activities Association sport in 2017, KSHSAA celebrated 44 years of gymnastics on Saturday at the state meet.

Ann Heinlein, who coaches Shawnee Mission North and SM West said the crowd support was great.

“Having (this many people) showing our administrators and faculty this isn’t a dead sport,” Heinlein said. “This is a very vibrant sport. These girls are very interested in this sport.”

Participation is the No. 1 driving force behind whether or not the programs are cut from the Shawnee Mission School District.

And because the decision still hasn’t been made, the celebration came at 44 years instead of 45 or 50.

If the sport is cut by SMSD, it would leave eight schools across the state with teams.

The remaining eight schools can have an end-of-season championship for individuals, there just wouldn’t be a KSHSAA sanctioned championship for the teams.

Heinlein said this is what was done for boys in the late 1990s before the sport was dropped.

Heinlein emphasized that cost has zero to do with the pending decision.

She can only compete five girls at a time and wonders why it matters if she has 10 or 20 on her team.

Only three of those scores count, too.

Heinlein said the participation numbers are about the same as bowling, golf and tennis saying it’s an average of 10 per team.

On Oct. 29, SMSD is hosting its inaugural clinic for elementary and middle school students.

Heinlein said she’s received a number of emails from parents whose children want to participate in the clinic.

“The outpouring is insane,” Heinlein said. “We now have local gyms on our side that are saying, ‘We push some of these girls to do high school. If they’re a certain level, we’re sending them to high school teams.’ It’s so important, these girls are realizing and parents are realizing that it’s important for them to be involved in their high school culture and not all in a club.”

Olathe East won the team title with 108.2 points. Newton took second followed by SM West in third. SM East was fifth.