AAU Junior Olympics: Skillsville gymnasts win 11 medals
By Harry M. Anderson, Jr.
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — The Skillsville gymnastics team, up against competition from across the country, held its own at this year’s AAU Junior Olympics, which was held July 26-29 at the Cobo Center in Detroit.
Skillsville made its mark, winning 11 medals and placing eight other finishes in the top 10.
The Skillsville Boys won nine medals: three gold, five silver and one bronze. The girls won two medals: gold and a bronze. Competition was divided by the competitor’s age.
“We did well in our sport,” said Skillsville co-founder Yvonne Baker. “We had a lot of parental support and volunteers. It was just a good job by everybody.”
Baker said it was a “big deal” for the gymnasts to win in their hometown.
“I thought the Olympics were a great opportunity because our kids got to interact with kids in other sports such as cheerleading, wrestling and Tae-Kwon Do.”
Leading the boys’ team was 8-year-old Marreon Washington, who was a double gold medalist with wins in tumbling and the double mini-trampoline.
Other double medal winners were 10-year-old Isaiah Stringer and 5-year-old Max Baker. They each won silver in tumbling and mini-trampoline. Elijah Stringer, 12, won bronze in tumbling and silver in double mini-trampoline. Joshua Jenkins, 13, was a single medal winner as he took gold in the tumbling competition. He also finished fourth in double mini-trampoline.
The boys were impressed with their performance and their medals.
“I did my back handspring and did my jumps on the trampoline,” Baker said. “I felt good winning those medals.”
Elijah Stringer reflected on the pressure of his performance.
“It was really stressful at first because I had to try extra hard and the pressure was to do better,” he said. “After I won my medals, I felt pretty good knowing that this was my first time. I knew it wouldn’t have been my best, but now I know what to expect to (do) my best next time.”
“I took second place,” Isaiah Stringer said. “I felt great because my mom helped me set some goals. It’s great to be a double medal winner because all that hard work has finally paid off.”
Skillsville parents also shared in their children’s joy.
“I’m so overwhelmed,” said Patrice Stringer, Elijah and Isaiah mother. “It was so exciting for them to go up against kids whose talent is phenomenal and to place so high against kids with this high caliber of talent.
“Who would’ve known they could compete against kids at this level. It was humbling. I was awed watching kids from all over the country do so well,” she said.
The boys’ father described watching his son and teammates’ big win as thrilling.
“I’m very proud of them. Our boys have been invited to try out for the U.S. National Team. My wife and I are excited for them,” said Robert Stringer. It was good to see our kids against the other competitors. Seeing them step up their game against the better kids out there was a thrill.”
The girls managed two medals with 6-year-old Kameana Washington winning gold in tumbling and 7-year-old Cameron Hall winning a bronze in tumbling. Washington finished seventh in double mini-trampoline, and Hall finished fourth in double mini-trampoline.
“I did tumbling and felt happy because I won a medal,” Hall said. “I didn’t worry about (the competition). I just wanted to have fun. The real excitement was when I won a medal.”
Other competitors that finished in the top 10 were 7-year-old April Stokes with a seventh place in tumbling and a 10th in double mini-trampoline, 12-year-old Aniya Howard with a sixth in tumbling, 8-year old Yemani Kellar in tumbling, and 8-year old Najah Baker with an eighth in double-mini-trampoline.
“I was a little sad, but at least I did something,” Baker said. “This is my second junior Olympics. I won two golds at my first one.”
Skillsville Coach Aspasia Simmons says the performance of the junior gymnasts was impressing and surprising.
“I’m getting ready for the new season and hope that they do even better than this past season,” says Simmons.