BRANDON – Months of practice will be put to the test starting Thursday for 20 young gymnasts from the North Brandon Family YMCA.
The youngsters will be among 1,800 gymnasts from around the country who will compete for trophies at the 2014 YMCA National Gymnastics Competition in Tampa.
The Y at 3097 S. Kingsway Road is one of only two in Hillsborough County that has a gym program.
This will be the first time ever that the gym team will compete in nationals, said Tyna Papillon, gymnastics director for the North Brandon Y. The competitions are often out of state, and travel to those venues has been too expensive, Papillon said.
The 2013 contest was in Savannah, Ga.
But this year’s competition, Thursday through Saturday, is at the Tampa Convention Center. The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA is serving as host for the games.
About 100 teams from 23 states are expected to take part.
Papillon said the North Brandon team members realized that this was their year to participate since the venue was so close to home.
“The kids and their parents have been looking forward to it all year long. They have worked hard to earn the right to compete.”
Each team member had to score at least 32 on a 40-point scale to win a spot in the national competition, Papillon said. The competition is open to both male and female gymnasts 5 to 18, although all of the North Brandon team members are girls aged 7 to 14.
The squad includes girls from Brandon, Dover, Plant City, Seffner and other parts of East Hillsborough County, Papillon said.
Participants compete for top honors in bars, team, vault and floor.
The gym season runs from Aug. 1 through July and includes about six YMCA and Amateur Athletic Union competitions per year, she said.
Papillon has been practicing her team 9 to 12 hours a week. She is helped by fellow YMCA staff members Victoria Schepisi, who is the team’s head coach, and Jonathan Primus, who works with the team on conditioning.