Far removed from the cheers and recognition of their school peers, friends, teachers, and administrators, there is a group of young people who train year-round in Richmond.

Thy are the very accomplished athletes from Excel Gymnastics.

Every week night surrounded by chalk and sweat, athletes ranging in age from five to 18 train to hone their skills and learn new techniques. Many of them started into gymnastics by enrolling in 45 or 60-minute recreational classes.

This past year there has been tremendous growth at Excel.

The team welcomed 25 gymnasts and also a coach who found a new training home after their gym closed last spring. Merging the teams took patience, understanding and love from coaches, parents, and gymnasts.

The near overnight addition increased the team size by just over 30 percent and everyone’s efforts was crucial to the success of the change.

Gymnastics is a sport that has no offseason.

It requires year-round sacrifice and is worth of every life lesson learned.

Depending on the level of the athlete, a gymnast starts out at training three hours one night a week and works up to four hours four nights a week — along with weekend competitions that occur both in and out of the state.

Competitive season usually begins at the end of October and ends in May.

Due to the difficulty and sacrifices needed, most gymnasts stop before or during their first year in high school.

The gym, which opened in 1996, was thrilled to see the first gymnast graduate this year — Julia Kiser of Madison Central High School.

There is great hope to have many more as the number of high school gymnasts has grown over the past few years. Next year, 11 high-school athletes on the team — seven freshmen, one sophomore, two juniors and one senior.

Gymnasts strive to reach the level to compete at the regional and national level.

Kentucky is part of a five-state gymnastics region, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky.

The growth of Excel Gymnastics this season can be measured in the number of athletes and the size of the coaching staff, but also in accomplishments on the mats.

The team of 81 gymnasts ended the season with three first-place Kentucky State teams, 14 All-Around State Champions, 40 first-place State Event Champions, 32 Regional Qualifiers (out of 35 eligible), 12 Regional event top-10 finalists, and one Regional All-Around top 10 finalist.

The future is bright for these amazing athletes.

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