Sports

Olympic Gymnastics Center qualifies four gymnasts for regional competition in Montana

Olympic Gymnastics Center team member Katie Baretela rotates on a move during the Level 7-10 Washington State Championships at Seattle Pacific University March 28. Baretela qualified for the regional meet in Montana with an all-around score of 35.45.  - Brad Camp/staff photo
Olympic Gymnastics Center team member Katie Baretela rotates on a move during the Level 7-10 Washington State Championships at Seattle Pacific University March 28. Baretela qualified for the regional meet in Montana with an all-around score of 35.45.
— image credit: Brad Camp/staff photo

Perched on a hand-crafted shelf above vaults and beams and bars, dozens of trophies, dating back nearly three decades, line a wall of the Olympic Gymnastics Center (OGC) in Silverdale.

The honorary hardware reflects owner Greg Mutchler’s life, which he dedicated to gymnastics in 1984 after Mary Lou Retton won all-around gold in women’s gymnastics at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Retton was the first American woman to accomplish that feat, launching what Mutchler calls the “boom” year of gymnastics.

“I happened to get into it at a good time when gymnastics was growing,” Mutchler said from the OGC’s mezzanine Monday, following a three-hour workout with a handful of his athletes. “That was right when I was getting into it, so everything was going pretty good, gyms were sprouting up.”

Mutchler, who played football at West High in Bremerton under legendary coach Chuck Semancik, attended Olympic College with the intention of becoming a carpenter. But when OGC’s previous owner offered to sell him the business in the late 1980s after the two had partnered for three years, Mutchler decided to make the commitment to gymnastics, a sport he “actually was pretty good at” in high school.

He moved OGC to its current location on Dickey Road in 1993 from downtown Bremerton.

In 1997, Mutchler, who owns the building, expanded the facility from 6,000-square feet to 10,000-square feet, doing most of the work with his own hands. He built the mezzanine three years later in 2000.

“My carpentry background has really helped,” he said, explaining the 80- and 90-hour work weeks he logged while upgrading and establishing OGC in Silverdale. “Nearly everything in this gym was built by me.”

Now the facility is open year-round, offering girls gymnastics classes at both recreational and competitive levels, as well as birthday parties and other events.

Mutchler said OGC currently serves 454 kids per week, sometimes having six or seven classes going at once during the evenings. There are three full-time coaches plus an additional 10 staff members.

“It keeps it going pretty good,” he said. “It’s definitely year-round.”

OGC’s Level 8 Competitive Team, comprised of six 13- and 14-year-old gymnasts, recently competed at the Level 7-10 Washington State Championships at Seattle Pacific University, with four of the six — Tara Black, Kayleigh Johnson, Katie Baretela and Taylor Finney — qualifying for regionals, which are April 17-19 in Montana.

There are eight regions nationwide and Mutchler’s team belongs to Region 2, which also includes Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

“It’s real exciting for them to get to go. It was neat; you work hard, plan on success,” Mutchler said. “It was exciting getting the kids called in to go to regionals. Even at the beginning of the season, that was our realistic goal.”

For Black, 14, the state competition was like nothing she’d seen before. She finished with an all-around score of 34.875, including a sixth-place finish in the vault with 9.4.

“I got really nervous just watching them,” Black said, referring to the Level 9 gymnasts she watched before competing herself. “They were really good.”

Black, who got into gymnastics after watching the Olympics on television, said her strongest events are the vault and floor exercise and her favorite gymnast is Alicia Sacramone, the 2005 world champion on floor exercise.

“I saw them on the Olympics and thought it was really cool,” she said. “It’s challenging ... the mental part of it, getting over the fears and stuff.”

Johnson, meanwhile, 13, surprised both herself and Mutchler by advancing beyond state to regionals. She jumped from Level 5 to Level 8 in just three years, a leap Mutchler called “really fast.”

“I didn’t even think I was going to make it in (to regionals) because this is only my third year,” Johnson said. “But it wasn’t that hard.”

Johnson posted an all-around score of 34.775, including 9.0 on floor, her self-proclaimed best event, and 8.85 on vault.

“I just got better and then I moved up,” she said. “Every time you finish a skill and perfect it, there’s always something different to try.”

Finney finished with an all-around score of 36.125, the top score on the team, and Baretela posted a 35.45 all-around score, including 9.15 on the floor.

Between now and regionals, Mutchler said the team will work on upping the difficulty level of their routines. Scores are calculated based on execution and level of difficulty.

Among the moves the team is practicing, Mutchler said, is the tsukahara, a round-off backflip off the vault. Black and Baretela do the tsukahara, but it’s still a work in progress for Johnson and Finney.

“It gives us a little time if we want to beef up a little bit,” said Mutchler of the time between state and regionals. “Their scores are based on difficulty ... so we’re trying to do what we can do in three weeks to up our difficulty a little bit.”

OGC is located at 8511 Dickey Place NW in Silverdale.

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