The Cambridge YMCA gymnastics team has enjoyed numerous successful trips to the Gym C YMCA Gymnastics Nationals competition under the leadership of veteran coach Cheryl Matthews.
This year’s event was held at the SeaGate Convention Center and hosted by the YMCA of Greater Toledo in June and featured more than 150 teams and 5,000 young gymnasts.
“We have always done well at nationals,” Matthews explained. “It seems like we get better each year, but have just not been able to crack that Top 10.”
That dry spell is now over as the Cambridge YMCA Level 6 (ages 10-14) team of Alonna Allen, Jade Tippel, Sophia Johnson, MaryBeth Yoder and Paisley Williams captured the runner-up team spot with an impressive score of 111,475. Allen and Tippel also finished as individual all-around National champions.
Matthews, who has guided the Cambridge program for 34 years, was surprised and overjoyed with her girls’ performance.
“After the girls won regionals in April, I thought they had a real shot to make it into the top 10 at nationals,” Matthews offered. “But I had no idea it would be second place, that’s just outstanding. We had never been able to come close to that.
“Not only that, but we had six national all-around champions and won 27 titles all together,” Matthews added. “And that’s extremely difficult to do at a national meet. I’m just so, so proud of all of the girls, they just did a great job.”
Also claiming all-around national titles for the Cambridge team were Briella McVay (Level 2/Child B Division), Cruz Engstrom (Level 2/Junior Division), Madilynn Rogers (Level 2/Senior Division), and Kaylin Volz (Level XP/ Junior Division).
“These girls practice year-round,” Matthews said. “They get one week off at Christmas and one week off before school starts so 50 weeks out of the year they practice.”
Those practice sessions are held from 4 to 7:30 pm every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and it’s an intense workout session.
“They come in to practice and they work from the minute they get there to the minute they leave,” Matthews continued. “They are allowed to get drinks, but we don’t sit down, they don’t get a snack break. They practice and work the whole time.”
Matthews’ coaching staff includes her daughter Brittany Matthews, as well as McKenna Schramm, January Parrish, Sadie Williams, April Chilson, Kim Blasenhauer and Tecarrie O’Brien.
“My coaches just do a great job with the girls,” Matthews offered. “They handle all the lessons at the YMCA, and couldn’t do it without them. They do a great job with the girls.”
Now that they have broken into the Top 10 at the nationals with a runner-up finish, the next goal is to earn a national championship.
“I guess the national championship is the next step,” Matthews stated. “They are very competitive girls, and I don’t think they will be satisfied with second place again.”