Gym owner Melissa Carder bends over backwards to give gymnasts a leg up
KEARNEYSVILLE – In a row of rather industrial-looking storefronts off Charles Town Road, there’s an unexpected flurry of activity going on at 111 Edmond Road after normal business hours.
Throughout the evening, little girls in braids and ponytails and spunky outfits tackle a variety of exercises. Some are working in unison across the open floor while others move single-file across a balance beam or on the uneven bars.
[cleeng_content id="811603531" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]It all looks like a lot of fun.
But don’t be fooled. There’s a lot of hard work going on at Flip-N-Cheer.
Owner Melissa Carder started the business less than four years ago, but in just two seasons hosting a competitive gymnastics team, all the long hours and dedication are paying off.
Carder started Flip-N-Cheer after coming from a gymnastics and personal-training background. She also led classes at the parks and recreation programs in both Berkeley and Jefferson counties, where a typical gymnastics class lasted just six weeks or so.
She found herself interested in doing more for aspiring gymnasts. “I wanted a more progressive, skills-based program,” she said.
Carder still offers the traditional recreational gymnastics classes for kids ages 2 and older along with cheerleading clinics and tumbling, but it’s the 30 or so members of Flip-N-Cheer’s competitive Junior Olympic team who are logging the major hours at her gym.
In their very first season, the girls took home a jaw-dropping 16 state titles.
Carder thought there would be no way to ever top that. “That was just the craziest thing ever,” she said.
But this season, when they traveled to Charleston for the state competition in March, they won 17.
Each of the girls on the team, who range in age from 5 to 17, did well enough to qualify for states, she explained. In every level the team fielded a competitor and the Flip-N-Cheer athletes even scored an all-around champion.
The fact that the girls’ head coach is a former Olympian himself can’t hurt: Mirsad Mehic, a 60-year-old with an extensive background in both the sport and education, lends clout to the Flip-N-Cheer team.
A native Yugoslavian, his accent alone can intimidate the competition.
Carder said that when she happened to meet up with Mehic he had a bug to get into gymnastics again, and the two hit it off.
He gets along well with the students. “They love him,” Carder said.
It’s clear that as much as he pushes the girls to do their best, he cares about them, too, taking note when a new tooth has gone missing and doling out a smooch on the forehead.
As for that accent, it’s quickly a non-issue, according to Mehic. “If you want to understand, you’ll pay attention,” he said. “I believe it’s mutual respect.”
For Lauren Zaglifa, 14, a competitor with Olympic aspirations, it was Mehic who took her from winning silvers to golds, she said.
She credits the fact that he emphasizes that the little things add up to big things, she said.
Mehic says the benefits of gymnastics are as simple as getting a start on social life and learning to follow directions.
Becoming a member of the competitive team is by invitation only, but students in all of the other recreational classes available through Flip-N-Cheer are able to reap the benefits of the sport, both social and physical.
Gymnastics is a sport that takes strength, according to Carder, and these days most kids don’t get enough exercise, she said.
“I think that everybody should do gymnastics,” Carder said.
“Our roots really are about having fun, building character and just enjoying the sport of gymnastics.”
Registration for fall classes is going on now, and Carder has an open house planned from 1 to 4 p.m. on Aug. 24.
“I don’t think people realize we have a Junior Olympic program right her in Kearneysville,” she said.
Flip-N-Cheer athletes competing at the state level include Addison Breeden, Molly Colbert, Miranda Egan, Adriana Tapia, Jade Matthews, Julia Aiken and Kerianne Bellamy (all at Level 3); Izabella Lein, Sophie Wilson, Ann Timberlake, Alexis Taylor, Lily Grace, Lauren Park, Ana Graulau, Sophie Stuart and Caroline Myers (Level 4); Madelyn Colon, Caroline Stevenson, Emily Pizzuti and Rheagan Bean (Level 5); and
Lauren Zaglifa (Level 7).
Want to go?
What: Flip-N-Cheer open house, where visitors may check out the gym’s 30-foot tumbling block and more. Coaches also will be on hand to offer assessments of children’s skill levels.
When: 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 24
Where: Flip-N-Cheer, 111 Edmond Road, Kearneysville
For details: Go online to flipncheer.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-725-6551.