Saturday night, Oct. 13, an audience gathered to enjoy a gymnastic performance hosted by Union College. It was the grand finale to training clinics hosted by Union College with cooperation from University of Nebraska—Lincoln for about 150 academy and middle school students from the Dakotas, Missouri, Colorado and Nebraska. The evening was jump-started by an exhibition of ring skills and tumbling from members of the gymnastic team from UNL.
"It was amazing to be able to see people do flips like that," said Union student Kara McDaniel.
Outside of UNL's special performance, each visiting school as well as Union College's Gymnaires performed solo routines followed by a presentation from the entire group.
"The performance on Saturday was such a success!" Gymnaires' Courtney Haavisto said. "Everyone did great on their routines. It felt so awesome to see some of the moves performed that we helped [the kids] with." Union students, such as sophomore Savannah Bower, were surprised with how agile and flexible the athletes were.
"I wish my body could move like that," she commented.
"We have talented people on the team," Stephanie Eldenburg, a longtime gymnast, said. "We have a lot of potential."
That talent is mirrored in the new head coach, Seth Perkins, who organized the event.
"I think he has a lot of talent to share with the kids." McDaniel said. Eldenburg said Perkins is good at remaining calm and in control during a hectic weekend.
The success of the performance wasn't simply due to the coaches, supportive crowd or fluidity of the show, but also in the impact that it left with the visiting students who stayed with kind hosts in Rees, Prescott and Culver Halls.
"From watching the students and faculty, the other gymnasts seemed really welcome," Bower said. "But that's how the entire atmosphere here is at Union."
Next school year, Union will take its turn hosting Acrofest, a similar but larger training clinic open to gymnastics teams from all colleges and high schools in the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.
Two weeks following Gymfest, another host of visitors were able to attest to Union's hospitality. The weekend of Oct. 26 brought eight teams of girls from across the Midwest to compete against each other in a volleyball tournament. The winners were Midland Academy (Kans.), College View Academy (Neb.), and Campion Academy (Colo.).
"We're really excited about the three new teams from Maplewood, Minnetonka and Dakota Adventist Academy," said Ric Spaulding, athletic director for Union College. "More girls playing on volleyball teams in the Mid-America Union means that's more girls hopefully coming to play at Union College."
Although the visitors, such as senior Molly Gibb, believed that the athletics "were handled well," the accommodations and friendliness of the students were commented on the most.
"This year we tried something new," Spaulding said about feeding the 135 visitors. "We put barcodes on the name tags." Everything ran smoothly, and the new dining system will probably be implemented for future tournaments.
Kayla Rouse, who not only came to the recent Gymfest, but also basketball tournaments for the past three years, stays with girls that she already knows. She thinks Union is very open and welcoming.
"Girls just say 'hi' or open doors," Rouse said on feeling welcomed. "It's not something big, but it just shows that they want you on campus."
Even though Sunnydale sophomore Kristi Fitzpatrick's sister attends Union, Kristi had never been inside any of the buildings until she came for this year's tournament.
"It was a little awkward at first," Fitzpatrick admitted, as she hadn't met her sister's roommate before. "But then it was OK. My sister introduced me to a lot of people." Gibb, Fitzpatrick's teammate, used to be against attending Union College, but with each visit, she becomes more open to the idea.
"Every year keeps getting better and I get more excited about going to college," Gibb said. "Union College seems to offer a lot of opportunities. Everyone is really outgoing and nice. The staff seems really energetic and willing to help the students."
"I think people are nice here," Fitzpatrick agreed. "They just seem friendly. I'll probably end up going here because, after being here, everybody is so friendly. The other colleges seemed really different."
"It's not just our [athletics] department." Spaulding said. "The dorms, students here, Union Market, Ortner Center ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ there are a lot of different areas working together to make it work."
For team photos from the volleyball tournament, visit Union's athletics site.