PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Edgewater Classic gymnastics meet is a staple of sports in Panama City Beach.
Credit: Pam Kitchen
The event celebrated its fifteenth anniversary Friday through Sunday at the Edgewater Beach Resort.
Over the years, it was grown into an event with national reach. For local gymnasts, it's what a year of training builds up to.
While that's still true, this year was different.
For one, it was the biggest classic yet. 850 kids competed from nine states (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, South Carolina, and of course, Florida.
For out of towners, it doubles as a competitive venture and a vacation, but the "home team" has had a rough go of things since Hurricane Michael.
Edgewater Gymnastics' gym off Highway 77 in Southport was destroyed, but none of the kids or coaches gave up. They've been training in three counties, some traveling 700 miles each week to maintain their training schedule.
The Classic is their reward.
"The payoff really isn't the competition here, the meet that we're hosting," meet director and Edgewater Gymnastics owner Pam Kitchen said. "The payoff is that we are really bringing normalcy to these kids lives. Most of these kids, as you all are living the same, they don't have their homes. A lot of them are living with grandmas and grandpas and in trailers and in hotels. To come here, all together, is such a great experience."
The Classic was their first time together as a team since the storm.
Things may be looking up for the group. A raffle raised nearly ten thousand dollars towards a new gym which she says will be "bigger and better than ever."