Franklin County’s YMCA Tumbling Tigers sending 20 athletes to compete in 2024 YMCA Gymnastics Nationals

A team photo of Franklin County’s YMCA Tumbling Tigers. The Tigers are competing in Nationals in Pennsylvania this week.

A team photo of Franklin County’s YMCA Tumbling Tigers. The Tigers are competing in Nationals in Pennsylvania this week. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 06-19-2024 4:31 PM

While gymnastics is seeing a decline in teams in the area, Franklin County’s YMCA Tumbling Tigers are thriving. 

The Tigers have 45 gymnasts in their program, coming from all over Franklin County, Hampshire County, Hampden County and Vermont as numerous departments have closed down. 

Throughout the season, 20 of those gymnasts have qualified for the 2024 YMCA Gymnastics Nationals and will be making the trip to Oaks, Penn. to compete against the best in the country. 

Nationals will run from Thursday through Sunday at the Expo Center in Oaks, right outside of Philadelphia. 

“It’s very exciting,” Tumbling Tigers director Mirasia McGahan said. “It’s going to be a great experience for everyone. I’m so excited for the team.” 

It’ll be the Tigers’ first trip to nationals in four years, and it’ll be a large contingent heading there.

The Tumbling Tigers have 45 competitive gymnasts in their program, and with 20 going to nationals, it shows the progress the club has made this season and the talent within the team. Gymnasts in the program range from 6 years old to 18. 

“Twenty is an extremely high number,” McGahan said. “We did not have that many gymnasts the last time we went to nationals. It’s a really big deal to have that many going.” 

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That progression, and the high number of gymnasts qualifying, is helped by a new training program the team is using. Since McGahan, a former gymnast herself, became the director a year and a half ago, she’s used United States of America Gymnastic (USAG) training methods, and the results have been impressive.

“I think it could have to do with having a lot of kids in our gymnastics department,” McGahan said. “When I stepped into this role I made a lot of changes to our gymnastics department. You could see the level of their gymnastics change. They’re qualifying now as opposed to prior years where we weren't doing so well. It’s very exciting this year. We’ve always been USAG certified but we’re having our coaches implement that training for the gymnasts.” 

How do gymnasts qualify for nationals? The competitive season begins in the fall and runs through June. 

There are 10 levels of competition, with gymnasts being placed into a slot that matches their individual skill level. Gymnasts must hit a specific score based on their level at two different meets to qualify for nationals. As the levels go up, the score to qualify also goes up. 

“It’s a huge deal for any gymnast to qualify,” McGahan said. “It’s a very big event. There’s so many gymnastics teams going, from USAG teams to YMCA teams. We’re very excited.” 

The Tumbling Tigers are capitalizing on the closure of many programs in the area. With the gymnastics departments in Westfield and Northampton folding, it leaves the Tigers and Hampshire Gymnastics as the biggest programs in the area.

That allows the Tigers to draw from all over. With the success of the program and seeing so many qualify for nationals, McGahan said she hopes it’s a springboard for the program to continue its growth. 

“I’m hopeful other people in the community see our gymnastics team is flourishing and will want to come to the YMCA to do recreational gymnastics,” McGahan said. “I’m still new to this role and we have new people and coaches in the program who know what they’re doing and we’re seeing a huge change in the gymnasts’ skills. Our numbers are going up and we have a whole bunch of new things coming this fall. I’m hoping the word gets out about our program."

Going to nationals isn’t just a chance to show your skills. 

With all the top teams there, McGahan said she’s hoping the Tigers use the opportunity to see how other gymnasts do things and try to take that knowledge back with them as they prepare for next season. 

“I want them to see what other gyms do,” McGahan said. “Every gym is different. We might be good at floor but another gym is really good at bars. It’s really good to allow the gymnasts to have the opportunity to see what other gyms are doing. It’s good that they can see a Level 9 or Level 8 gymnast. It gives them this spunk and lets them see that this is what they’ll need to do to get to that level.”

Most of all, McGahan is hoping all the Tumbling Tiger athletes enjoy their time at nationals, soaking in a once and a lifetime experience. 

“Nationals is a big deal,” McGahan said. “You’re competing against teams from all over the United States of America. I want them to have fun and want them to know they’ve accomplished something just by getting to nationals. Not everyone gets to go. I want them to be able to get a good experience. They’ll have the opening ceremony, a dance party, a parade. It’s going to be so much fun for all of them and their guardians there with them.”