Haydens International Gymnastics Academy cleaned up
at the Level 6 state competition. Members of the team are coach Craig Kirby (front, from left), Alicia Ignatowicz, Hannah Foerster, Katelyn Vangiller; Callie Jowers (back row, from left), Kasey Hardin, Lauren Wetherbee and coach Amy Blackburn.
Photo by Jim BlaylockAtlanta-area gymnastics teams had superior numbers at the 2002 Level 6 state championships, but that didn't stop the athletes from Haydens International Gymnastics Academy from stealing the show in Cartersville.
When the smoke cleared at the Nov. 15-16 meet, Haydens gymnasts had claimed nine individual-event titles and four all-around state championships.
"We had only six kids in this age group, and won more individual titles and all-around championships than any gym in Atlanta," said Haydens International co-owner Dennis Hayden. "Some of the Atlanta teams were triple our size, and we took four of the top awards. That was the impressive thing."
The Level 6 winners for Haydens were Hannah Foerster (Junior B2 division beam, floor exercise and all-around); Callie Jowers (Senior A2 division floor exercise and all-around); Kasey Hardin (Senior B1 division beam, floor exercise and all-around); Lauren Wetherbee (Senior B2 division bars, beam and all-around); and, Ala Ignatowicz (Senior B2 division vault and floor exercise).
In the Junior A1 division, Katelyn Vangiller placed third in the all-around, and contributed to Haydens' third-place finish in the Level 6 team finals.
"The team did really well," Callie Jowers said. "The work that went into competing at state was amazing. It took so much effort for the six of us."
The Level 6 team trains nearly 14 hours a week. The constant workouts, combined with a season of competition, led to various aches and pains.
Still, the gymnasts shrugged off the adversity and responded at state with consistent performances under pressure.
"They knew if they hit their routines, they'd be near the top, or at the top," said Amy Blackburn, who helps train the Level 6 squad, along with coach Craig Kirby.
Blackburn said she normally gets nervous before meets, but that wasn't the case prior to the 2002 Level 6 State Championships.
"The team was so prepared I was really confident," she said. "This group was very goal-oriented, and they had so much success throughout the season, they were ready to go at state."
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