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Helena Athletic Club gearing up for state gymnastics championship meet

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Posted at 8:35 AM, Mar 23, 2023

HELENA — The Helena Athletic Club is preparing to host the Montana State Gymnastics Championships this weekend.

"I tell the kids, that doing well and feeling confident is fun," said head coach and HAC owner Laura Snellman. "So when we’re on top of the game and are excited to go into competition and excited to show off our routines, that’s fun.

"If we put in the hard work and they enjoy being here around their teammates and around their coaches, it’s a win-win. They’re getting stronger, building confidence and poise, and like I said, hard work is going to pay off in the future."

Snellman spoke about the benefits of having a more localized state meet.

"Usually for every other meet, we’re traveling. Even if it’s within the state it’s still a significant distance so it’s nice for kids to have family members to come and support their gymnastics. It’s not a school activity or a school sport so it’s really neat for all of our kids to be able to show off what they do.”

"It’s a lot of fun because a lot of these girls will mention that they wouldn’t make these friends otherwise," she said. "They would not know a teammate from East Helena or Helena High to Capital high. So they even value getting to know teammates from Clancy or Boulder or Townsend. So it’s pretty neat that they can build that camaraderie here at HAC."

Head Rec & Team coach Puja Smith talked about how she prepares her team, saying she does so "by encouraging the kids to just do their best and to really see within themselves and what their potential is. Because a lot of times the kids will say to me, 'I can’t do it.' And I’ll say, 'Yeah you can. I know you can do this. You’ve gotta just try.' And so. Try, try, they persevere and they persevere and one day they get the skill. And they’re like, 'Wow!'"

Fourth grader Iria McNay has come to practice two times a week for three hours a day in preparation for her first state meet.

"It's my first state meet so I’m a little nervous but mostly excited for state because early mornings are not my thing really, so I’m excited for it to be over but also sad for it to be over because competing is fun," said McNay.

Teammate and seventh grader Keira Klock, who is now a Level 6 competitive gymnast, said her coaches always set her up for success.

"We have fun but we also work hard and it’s just fun being at this gym," said Klock.

"If you’re a new gymnast, don’t be afraid to fail. Because once you fail, you’ll learn from your mistakes and you’ll get better. That’s what I did," she said.

The HAC team will kick off their Montana state competitions on Friday.