Giving something back

Youth gymnasts in Alpena had an opportunity to learn from some national champions this week.

Two University of Michigan gymnasts-Jonathan Chin and Hub Humphrey-were guest instructors of the annual Alpena Gymnastics summer camp this past week and spent three days teaching local gymnasts the finer points of the sport.

“They have so many different drills and they’re so perfect at everything that they demonstrate that it’s an incredible experience for us to watch them,” Wildkitten Tumbling Director Buffy Storey said. “Our morning camp is beginning gymnasts and we had the Michigan gymnasts demonstrating basic skills and the kids were just amazed to see those skills they work on being done so perfectly.”

More than six dozen kids participated in the camp and with the days split up into a morning session for beginning students and an afternoon session for advanced students.

Humphrey and Chin are both members of the Wolverines’ men’s gymnastics program which is coached by Alpena alum Kurt Golder. The program won its fifth NCAA national championship in April and the Wolverines have three national title to their credit since 2010 including the last two in a row.

During the week, Humphrey, Chin, Storey and other coaches put campers through the paces at a variety of stations including tumbling, balance beam and uneven bars among others. Michigan gymnasts have been involved with Alpena’s gymnastics camp for the last five years and Michigan’s program has been influential helping Alpena’s program grow. Michigan gymnasts originally taught Storey how to teach tumbling and Golder has passed on used equipment to Alpena’s program or helped them find equipment to purchase.

“We’ve been involved with U-M since I began,” Storey said. “They came to Alpena and taught me how to teach tumbling in the very beginning. Since then they’ve been working with us.”

Getting such good equipment has helped Alpena’s program grow, but it also impresses non-residents those who use it, like Michigan’s gymnasts. Wildkitten Tumbling was recently awarded $18,000 by the Alpena Youth and Recreation Committee and used it, along with $6,000 of its own money, to buy a new full-size spring floor. The new floor gives gymnasts and instructors more room to work and has added a new level of excitement within the program.

“I was very surprised. When I tested out the equipment, I was surprised at how great the equipment felt,” Chin said. “The parallel bars felt sturdier than what we have in our college gym and this floor is actually very similar to the college floor we have.”

Storey said participation rates in the camp have been steady over the years and the partnership with Michigan is one that she hopes to continue.Working the camp, not only gives the college gymnasts a chance to pass on their knowledge, it also keeps younger generations of gymnasts involved in the sport.

“It’s great. I didn’t have a lot of older college kids come back to me because I’m from California, but it’s really great to come back and teach these kids what I’ve learned over the year and keep them in the sport,” Chin said.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.