Suffolk gym sports state standouts

Published 7:17 pm Saturday, July 3, 2010

Compared to other gymnastics programs around the state, Triple T Sports Center in Suffolk is one of the newest and one of the smallest.

Those little facts didn’t mean anything though at state meets in the last few months where Triple T athletes finished among, or even as, the best in the state.

Many trophies stand on a mantle ringing around the largest gym, the main practice area for the Triple T gymnastics teams, but this past spring saw new heights for the girls and boys teams.

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For Triple T’s boys team any accomplishments would’ve been firsts since this was the first season Triple T had a boys team. The gym has had recreational gymnastics classes for boys, but head coach Kareem Phillips headed up the first competitive team.

With two gymnasts on the Triple T team, Phillips and Triple T brought home two state titles from the 2010 Virginia Men’s State Championships in late March.

Kailyn Phillips won the Virginia title for level 6, age 12-and-over, in the high bar. He finished fourth in the all-around and second in the pommel horse.

Erick Grant won the state championship in the vault for level 4, age 8.

In April, Phillips added to his trophies and medals by winning the regional championship in the vault and coming in eighth overall.

Triple T’s level 4 and level 5 girls’ teams had achieved major accomplishments even before their state meets in May.

“Every girls at Triple T qualified for states,” said head coach Donna Ranzy.

Then there were great honors for each team at their respective meets. The level 4 squad placed fifth out of 28 teams around the state. The level 5 team took third out of 27 gyms.

“They were both very big accomplishments,” Ranzy said. “Because we’re an up and coming gym. We went from basically no one noticing us to a great year. At both meets, judges came up to us after the meet and asked about our team.”

Patricia Phelps, in level 4, age 14, won the state title in the all-around and finished first in three of the four events; the uneven bars, balance beam and floor.

Ayanna Brooks, in level 4, age 8, finished fifth in the balance beam with a score of 9.50 and was 10th in the all-around.

In level 5, Ella Bronaugh, 10, finished third in the state in the vault and fifth overall. Victoria McBee, 10, was third in the balance beam and sixth in the all-around.

Ciara Miller, in level 5, age 9, was fifth in the uneven bars and ninth overall.

A major part of Triple T’s success on the girls side is thanks to Ranzy’s elite caliber assistant coach, her daughter Britney, who made it to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials after finishing 14th in the all-around and second in the vault at the 2008 U.S. Nationals.

“All of her experience has really helped us move forward with our program as well,” Ranzy said.

Hard work and many hours in the gym are musts, but there should be a balance, no pun intended, and Ranzy’s even learned that from her daughter’s amazing career.

“The girls are not robots that you can just push and push,” Ranzy said.

“My daughter, when she was training with an elite national training center, she barely would get water breaks. A lot of times you can get more out of kids if you give them time to recuperate, time to rest and think,” Ranzy said.

In another way, Ranzy thinks her approach at Triple T makes for better results in competition, too.

“We’ve been focusing on a lot of gymnastic basics, on cleaning up the skills we know. You can spend a lot of time on big skills, but if they aren’t clean, you’re sort of setting up for failure,” Ranzy said.

Still, it’s a huge commitment from every gymnast and it’s anything but easy.

“The girls train anywhere from about nine hours a week at level 4, up to level 7, where it’s about 20 hours a week,” Ranzy said.

Ranzy and Triple T are expanding up to level 7 this season. “It’s a big thing for us. It’s a big step for a small club,” Ranzy said.

Ranzy had two brand new recruits practicing for the first time with the level 4 team on Thursday afternoon. Since the end of last season, Phillips has had his squad triple, from two gymnasts to six.

“We’re practicing only about four hours a week. That’s very low for a competition team, but in those few hours, we’re able to reach those goals and accomplishments,” Phillips said.

His two veterans, and two state champs, are still well under a year old in competitive gymnastics.

“It’s my first year coaching a team. I had, and still have, to learn a lot. I’ve basically been learning long the way,” Phillips said.