Showtime: Bemidji Aerials gear up for 9th club gymnastics showcase at BHS
After a long season of competitions, the Bemidji Aerials are prepping for their annual gymnastics showcase at Bemidji High School May 20-21.
Custom-made curtains and decorations will soon adorn the Bemidji High School Gymnasium for the Bemidji Gymnastics Club’s ninth annual showcase.
Also known as the Bemidji Aerials, the BGC is preparing group routines for fundraising shows in three weeks. Gymnasts ranging from ages 3-18 are learning new routines to show off their gymnastics prowess. In the meantime, program director and coordinator Brittney Beck is focused on tying up any loose ends.
“With the girls all being in one group, they all want to stand out,” Beck said. “They really push themselves to do new skills and something different. Some of them are new to stuff like group bars, so they have to learn how to be on the bars with other gymnasts. We all look forward to it.”
This year’s theme is “Chart Toppers,” inspired by a handful of songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list. The BGC will host two shows at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, and a third show at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 21, at the high school gym.
Fundraising efforts will cover expenses for the Bemidji Aerials – including equipment, staffing hotels and other fees. The annual showcase is a chance for area gymnasts to perform in a unique team setting.
“When they’re at a competition or a meet, they’re all alone,” Beck explained. “They’re all by themselves for the vaults, bars, beams and floor. When they do the showcase, they get to be with their whole team. They get to show off their skills, including the new skills they didn’t get to show off during the competition season.”
The BGC has about 200 gymnasts split into four teams based on skill level. With the help of four team coaches, seven recreational coaches and hands-on parents, many local representatives qualified for state and regional competitions.
Club gymnasts compete in USA Gymnastics’ Xcel Program, which was developed as an alternative competitive system offering more flexibility to coaches and athletes than the traditional Optional Program.
“In Xcel, you have more options,” Beck said. “You can build on your strengths and it’s a better feeding program into the high school team. Now, some girls choose to stay with us (instead of competing in high school) because they like the program. Xcel allows for less hours in the gym and more opportunities for kids to try other things.”
Putting skills to the test
Parents can start bringing their children to the Gym Bin for classes at 18 months. Once they graduate from toddler-level programs, they are split into one of four skill categories – silver, gold, platinum and diamond. BGC gymnasts climb the skill ladder until they reach the highest level, where they compete against the best club gymnasts the state has to offer.
“When they’re younger, you’re kind of worried if they’re going to remember their routines,” Beck said with a laugh. “Luckily, we didn’t have any kids forget their routine.”
The BGC had 15 gymnasts compete in the gold, platinum and diamond State Championships from March 24-26 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Bemidji’s 15 silver gymnasts went to state from Dec. 9-11 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
Of the BGC’s 30 state qualifiers, seven also competed in regional competitions – Eliana Franks, Aaliyah Welcome, Kylie Sonneman, Kali Allen, Aerie Hill, Lauren Bruley and Elliana Ekre. The Aerials put their routines to the test against other top Xcel gymnasts from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin at the Minneapolis Convention Center from April 21-23.
“Our highest level practices nine hours a week, with the option to practice 12 hours a week,” Beck added. “They’re very dedicated. They put a lot of hours in the gym. We have a meet at least once a month. Our older girls sometimes will have three meets in a month.”
The stress of the competition season is in the rearview mirror as the Aerials prepare for their showcase. For Beck, it’s been a fun but challenging first year in her role.
She grew up as a Bemidji gymnast and coached at the Gym Bin for eight years before her 2022 promotion to program director, program coordinator and assistant manager, giving her a full-circle feeling.
“I’ve taken on more and more (responsibilities) as we go,” Beck said. “There are things I want to do. We brought back a gymnastics camp. We do a gymnastics camp in August, and that’s for all of the team girls. During Christmas, we had day camps. We also do this thing where we have a lock-in. We invite all of the team gymnasts to have a sleepover in the gym. It’s a lot of fun.”
The BGC hopes to add a fifth competitive level above diamond in the fall, along with more non-competitive sessions.
“Most of our recreational classes have waitlists of people just waiting to get in,” Beck left off. “We’ll be upping our numbers in the fall or the summer depending on where we’re at with coaching. We just want to get more kids in the gym and involved with gymnastics.”