Gymnasts and their families at Giant Gymnastics will be beaming with pride as their gym hosts this year’s USAIGC (United States Association of Independent Gymnastic Clubs) State Championships for the first time from May 31st through June 2nd.
In the past, the USAIGC State Championship meet has been held on Memorial Day weekend in Wildwood. Three years after their original request to host, Giant Gymnastics has been granted the honor to host this state wide event. Co-Owners Jennifer Packard and John Skorski decided to move the event location and weekend in an effort to make it more convenient. “Memorial Day was a hard weekend for families both time wise and financially. To have it on a non-holiday weekend will allow more gyms to have the option of participating,” explained Packard.
Giant’s main goal was to have States more centrally located so the event has been moved to Rutgers University. Rutgers is the one University left in New Jersey that still has a gymnastics program; “We feel it is very important to recognize that and to support them in any way we can,” explained Skorski. “Rutgers has a great facility with plenty of seating and open space which allows us to have 2 separate gyms, which means more gymnasts in less time.”
Packard and Skorski have hosted large competitions in the past, though the challenge of the state championship meet is a large one. The preparation involves securing the location, judges, sound and scoring systems and vendors, finding host hotels, local restaurants, shopping malls, coaches’ hospitality… “But once the prep work is done, the weekend runs like a finely tuned engine,” says Packard. They also need to coordinate volunteers, concessions, deal with meet entries and organizing the gymnasts in the competition into squads and rotations. “This year, for the first time, every competitor is getting a t-shirt, too!” said an excited Packard. Packard and Skorski have divided the responsibilities into committees headed by 4 of Giant Gymnastics’ staff, along with Skorski and Packard themselves.
Both locations have gymnasts who have qualified for championships. At Hackettstown, the team has 11 total gymnasts who qualified- 3 Copper level, 3 Bronze, 2 Silver and 3 Gold. From the Lafayette location, all seventeen of the Garden Gator gymnasts have qualified for State Championships- 7 Copper level, 7 Bronze and 3 Silver. Despite having a “home field advantage”, Coaches still emphasize to both their Hackettstown and Lafayette teams that “while the enthusiasm and drive will be tremendous, a competition is still a competition. The best of the best attend States, so it will be a very healthy competitive atmosphere that weekend,” says Packard.
Not only do both locations have gymnasts competing in the weekend long event, but the volunteers Skorski and Packard speak of are the families from Giant Gymnastics. “This is such a great experience in so many ways. I remember as a kid helping host a State Competition at my home gym. My mom was very involved with it, and it was a lot of work, but the pride everyone felt in running such a successful event has stayed with me as an adult,” reminisced Packard. “Having them help be a part of that weekend gives them a sense of ownership to a great event. Being privileged to host States puts our name on the map, so to speak. Giant has a very good reputation within the league already- we want to build on that trust and positive relationship by hosting an event that is run efficiently and smoothly, and makes the kids happy. It really is all about the kids.”