Headed To Nationals: Victory Gymnastics Academy taking 7 gymnasts to Florida

The last time Gary Stam took gymnasts from Victory Gymnastics Academy to the National Gymnastics Association championships, they came away with an individual national title.

That was 2018, when Emily Moore, who would go on to win a high school state all-around title for Columbus North, won the bars and finished third in the all-around in Level 9. The 2020 nationals was canceled because of COVID, and Victory opted not to go in 2019 or last year.

This week, seven gymnasts from Victory are headed to Orlando, Florida, for the national competition which begins Wednesday and continues through Saturday.

Victory Gymnastics Academy’s Adhvika Dhanya competes on the beam at the state championships in Plainfield.

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“We’re very excited to go and win nationals,” said Advhika Dhanya, a seventh-grader at Northside Middle School. “I want to get on podium and hit all of our routines and get all 9s or higher.”

Dhanya finished second in the all-around competition at the regional and will be competing in Level 8 on Saturday.

Chelsea Jones, a senior at Elwood, is the only one of the seven gymnasts who has been to nationals. She finished eighth on the floor last year while competing for Wright’s Gymnastics in Noblesville and helped the Region 5 team tie for first in the Level 9 team standings.

Jones, who makes the hour-and-a-half trip to Columbus five days a week to practice, is going to take a gap year and be a gymnastics judge, then possibly go into acro and tumbling in college. She won the Level 9 all-around in the regional and will compete at nationals on Saturday.

Victory’s Level 7 team won the state championship with only three girls, which is the number needed to score. They were led by Mackenzie Stamper, who won the vault and all-around at both state and regional.

Victory Gymnastics Academy’s Mackenzie Stamper competes on the beam at the state championships in Plainfield.

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“It’s really exciting because I’ve never been to nationals because when it came to the part of the year where everyone would go to regional and nationals, I would always end up getting injured,” said Stamper, a sixth-grader at Rock Creek Elementary.

Victory Gymnastics Academy’s Reina Kawamura competes on the beam at the state championships in Plainfield.

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Reina Kawamura finished fourth in the all-around in the regional. Hayden Harper also finished in the top 10.

The Level 7 gymnasts will compete at the nationals on Friday.

“I’m really excited because I’ve never been to nationals,” said Kawamura, a seventh-grader at Northside Middle School.

Victory Gymnastics Academy’s Hayden Harper competes on the beam at the state championships in Plainfield.

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“I’m shocked I made it, but I was really excited I made it,” added Harper, a sixth-grader at Schmitt Elementary. “I’d like to hit 4 for 4 (routines) and get all 9s.”

Victory also will have two gymnasts competing in the Xcel Sliver division on Wednesday. Meghan Young won the vault, floor and all-around at state, and Alanna Mae Purnell won the bars at state.

“I’m really excited because we get to travel and meet new gyms,” said Purnell, a second-grader at Richards Elementary.

“In the beginning, I was really nervous, but now, I’m really excited because I’ve never been to nationals, and it’s going to be fun to travel there,” added Young, a fifth-grader at Southside Elementary.

Stam is the owner and program director at Victory Gymnastics Academy. Shanthi Teike is his assistant coach.

The coaches offered to take anyone to nationals that scored at least a 37 in the all-around at the state meet.

“We kind of made our own rules,” Stam said. “We had a lot of girls that scored 37, and they just chose not to go. They had to score at least a 34 to make it to nationals by rule, but our rule was a 37.”

This was a bounce-back year for the club, which had seen its numbers plummet from around 600 gymnasts to about 125 the previous couple of years, mainly because of the COVID pandemic. They’re back up to about 500, including 50 that are on the competitive team.

“We had a real successful season, which was really nice after COVID,” Stam said. “COVID was tough on us. We thought we were going to have to close, but we made it through.”