By Wil Crews
Xtreme Athletics, located at 3766 Pepperell Parkway in Opelika, is an athletic facility that provides girls ages 5-15 with the opportunity to participate in recreational and competitive gymnastics.
The athletic group decided to host its own meet recently in lieu of COVID-19 related cancellations to the gym’s competitive season. Teams from Xtreme Athletic’s sister gym in Troy joined the Auburn competitive teams in the meet. The intra-squad meet was an important event for the girls, who have had at least half of their season already cancelled due to COVID-19.
“At the beginning of all this we didn’t know what competition would look like,” said Miranda Sexton, Xtreme Athletics Auburn Gymnastics director/co-manager. “We struggled to even figure out what we were qualified for and what we were allowed to do.”
Sexton said the older girls missed half of their season already in the spring, so it was imperative that the gym give the athletes a chance to compete. Since gymnastics doesn’t qualify as an AHSAA sport, Xtreme Athletics provides one of the only opportunities in the area for budding gymnasts to try a new hobby or pursue a passion.
“It’s important for them to get scores,” Sexton said. “And also to just show progressions and the ability to move through levels and perform in front of judges — just that aspect of our sport.”
Xtreme Athletics made the meet fit COVID-19 guidelines by social distancing and limiting spectators to two per competitor. However, Sexton said that they offered a livestream so that extended family could tune in.
“We were able to provide a safe atmosphere that also felt as normal as it could for the kids,” she said.
The meet fulfilled the obvious competitive needs that the girls had been lacking, but Sexton said she believes there are other health benefits that come with the gym’s efforts to return to normalcy.
“I think it’s important for mental health too,” she said. “This is what they love to do, they lost it for 90 days. It was important for us to try and get them back to where they were before we were forced to take a break.”
Though things were being shut down and masks were becoming the new normal, Sexton knows that without the gym, her girls were being deprived of a basic need.
“We have a pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to exercise,” she said.
Furthermore, the gym is a second home for many of the girls, and the camaraderie and competition that the girls would lose without it cannot be understated.
“We are a big family,” Sexton said. “We’re focused on getting better and challenging ourselves. I think the girls feed off that — from each other, from their coaches.”
Xtreme Athletics merged with another local gym during the dog days of the pandemic that was also forced to shut its doors due to COVID-19. The merge doubled the size of the gym and elevated the need for a competitive meet even more.
“It’s a little different and weird, but we’re going to make the best of it and I think that’s what we’ve done,” Sexton said.
Now, Xtreme Athletics turns its eyes to the future, with the determination to give the girls the closest thing to a safe and normal competitive season as possible.
“I think it’s important to keep their gym sisters and be able to keep going in whatever form we can keep going in,” Sexton said. “Whether we end up back on Zoom or we’re able to keep practicing inside the gym.”
Sexton said she doesn’t know what the new year will look like, but that Xtreme Athletics will do all it can to help the girls compete.
“We’re planning for competition season to return to normal in the spring,” she said. “But our plan B is we will host more meets ourselves if we have to.”