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Gymnastics program begs for chance to self-fund a season

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Across the country, some schools' athletic programs are finding themselves jumping through hoops they never anticipated, furiously fundraising to ensure that a variety of seasons even exist in the 2011-12 school year. Severna Park (Md.) High's gymnastics program understands that desperation. It has no qualms with it whatsoever. In fact, the Falcons just want a chance to fundraise to try and save their season to begin with.

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Severna Park gymnastics

Severna Park gymnastics

As it were, the school's long-running gymnastics program was chopped off the 2011-12 budget without a chance to try and defend itself. According to the Annapolis Capital, Severna Park's gymnastics program was eliminated going forward not because of a lack of interest, but instead because the school's equipment was deemed too old and in need of replacement. It can't be repaired because the manufacturer that originally produced the team's vast stores of equipment -- all of which is reportedly 25 years old -- went out of business once and for all in the 1990s.

All of that may seem perfectly justifiable, except for one notable exception: The team isn't asking for any new equipment. Rather, they're just asking to exist. That's all.

"Most of my gymnasts are competitive club gymnasts used to state-of-the-art equipment, but we made adjustments to use what we had," Severna Park gymnastics coach Umme Beasley told the Capital. "Would it be nice to have $250,000 in new equipment? Yes. But this decision was made without consulting any of the county coaches."

Instead, the decision was triggered by the failings of another area gymnastics program. Chesapeake (Md.) High failed to field a varsity program in the 2010-11 season, which dropped the number of varsity teams in Anne Arundel County to five teams. The Capital reported that that number became an issue because Maryland bylaws hold that at least half of a county's schools field varsity teams in a sport for that sport to qualify as a varsity competition.

"We vetted this decision through the athletic directors when we fell to five schools," Anne Arundel County Athletic Director Greg LeGrand told the Capital. "Then it went to the principals. And both of those entities agreed it was just time to let it go.

"Finally, it came before the county's athletic legislative committee, which I chair but don't have voting privileges on. It's made up of coaches, students, parents, principals and athletic directors, and it meets once a year. Their final recommendation was unanimous to drop the sport if funds were not allocated."

The funds weren't allocated, and that was that. Yet the county's schools who were still competing in the sport in winter 2010-11 insist that they can still save the sport if they are just allowed to try and raise funds themselves. If Beasley and her cohorts are able to save the sport, it will be the second time in four years that it has come back from a potential death stroke from the county's athletic budget.

Until then, the people who will be affected the most are the athletes themselves, like Severna Park's all-around county champion, Kendall Woodcock, who is facing a senior year without a chance to defend her personal crown.

"Our teams are prepared to hold fund-raisers, garage sales, car washes, bake sales - anything to make gymnastics possible next year," Woodcock said. "My freshman year, the county tried to get rid of the high school gymnastics program as well. It seems as though this threat happens every year. But we have always fought to keep the program going. If we have worked hard in the past to make the gymnastics program continue, then I believe we can still fight it out another year."

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