A revamped GymZone men’s artistic team brought home some hardware after a recent meet in Woodbridge.
"The numbers in men's gymnastics are about half of what used to be (pre-pandemic)," said Head Coach Jack Miller. "COVID wiped out several men's programs across the province."
Fighting to counter this trend, Miller would take his team of Finn Connolly (Level 2, age 9-10), Ben Lagace (Level 1, age 13+) and T & T coach Graham Boland (Provincial Open, 13+) into competition, with all three posting some encouraging results.
With a third place all-around finish, Connolly took top spot on the vault, the rings and the parallel bars, with Boland matching him on the vault, placing second on the parallel bars and also placing third overall in his grouping.
A Grade 7 student at Algonquin Road Public School, Ben Lagace did not expect the high bars to be the highlight of his weekend, earning bronze on the apparatus and sliding into fourth place in his category.
"It was my last event and I was kind of tired," said Ben, 12, who started in gymnastics at age seven. "I was surprised that I did so well on that. I didn't think I was doing that well."
Conversely, there were the rings, which proved to be an unfamiliar challenge this time out.
"I was looking forward to the rings," Ben said, reminiscing on his first ever meet. "It's normally my best event but I didn't do as well on that."
Still, overall, there were far more in the way of positives to draw from his first effort, despite some pre-competition trepidation.
"I was kind of nervous; I didn't know what to expect," Ben said. "When I got there, as soon as I touched the first event, everything was okay. I want to do it again."
That's a pretty ringing endorsement from the young man who still recalls the early challenges of making the move from his once a week more recreational workouts to the sessions that help prepare he and his teammates for meets like the Woodbridge Invitational.
"The first couple of classes, your arms will be really sore, especially for me in those first two classes," Lagace said with a laugh. "Now that I do it every day, it's a lot easier."
Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury.