The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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February 16, 2013

Spire Institute busy with activities

HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — While hundreds of athletes were at Spire Institute competing in the Big East Track Championships and a national gymnastics competition many Spire Academy athletes were competing at major events across the country.

“We travel a lot,” said Rusty Douglas, facility manager at Spire Institute. He said the Spire Academy program has seen 35 athletes competing in four sports grow and flourish since their arrival last fall.

He said the students are from all over the world and travel to events all over the country. “We have basketball players from New Zealand and swimmers from El Salvador. They come from all over the world.”

Douglas said the participants include some high school students and some post graduate participants seeking college scholarship offers.

“We go to where there are big showcase events. They are looking to be seen,” he said. Douglas said the academy has gone well so far as the athletes are finding potential scholarship opportunities.

Douglas said 90 percent of the participants are out of high school. He said several swimmers already have two to three scholarship offers.

The last several weekends the competition spot light has been on Spire Institute as major gymnastic, swimming and track-and-field championships have been conducted in three separate state-of-the-art facilities.

Dozens of Big East track teams battled for conference championships Saturday and will continue today at the state-of-the art 300 meter track.

Many local residents volunteered their assistance at the track and gymnastic events.

More than 500 gymnasts are competing this weekend during the AAU with some hoping to make their way to the Olympics.

“In the Olympics this year two of the men were AAU gymnasts,” said Ron Ferris who is meet manager for the AAU Gymnastics Winter Nationals.

He said the Spire facility gives the gymnasts plenty of room for competition and the staff bends over backwards to make things go well.

The gymnasts range in age from 7 to 50. “We have a woman who is 50 years old who is coming (to compete) from California,” said Chris Wills who is in charge of publicity for the event.

“We love this meet. We love the atmosphere,” said Nicole Kaczmarek who helps coach the Aerial Express from Monroe, MI.

Area residents interested in track or gymnastics can get their fix today starting at 9 a.m. The gymnastics event has a morning and afternoon session and the Big East Track Championship is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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