PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - For fifteen years, Edgewater Gymnastics meets have been a staple of sports in Panama City Beach.
It's tough to find anybody who enjoys what they do more than these coaches and gymnasts. High fives, hugs, handstands, and hurdles were in high demand for three days at the Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort Friday through Sunday for the 15th annual Fall Into Edgewater meet.
27 teams from nine states made the trip, many of whom are regulars who have been coming year after year.
"Oh my gosh, here it is a year later," Edgewater Gymnastics owner Pam Kitchen said. "Last year at this time, we were hosting this meet and two days later the storm hit. So now it is just so exciting to be here and the girls love hosting it. It just lifts our spirits to have all these people coming in, especially from Illinois and Massachusetts, Louisiana, Mississippi...and they're all here, the same big gymnastics community it was last year. It makes us all feel so happy to see them."
Despite the familiar faces and venue, the last year has been completely out of the ordinary for the Edgewater Gymnastics family. The gym off Highway 77 in Southport was destroyed by Hurricane Michael. The floor, equipment, and banners had to replaced, not to mention the emotional toll the storm has taken on everybody.
This weekend, the meet is a triumph of both athletic and human perseverance.
"Hosting this meet was a different experience for us this year," Kitchen admitted. "Replacing everything that was destroyed during the hurricane, getting our families together because everyone is so spread out now and we've been traveling to two different counties to train. It's really hard to get our families together because some gymnasts are training in one facility and some are training in another. It has been a challenge, but also it has been fun and ultimately we all came together this week just like we were last year, together, before the hurricane and it's so surreal."
Edgewater Gymnastics earned Xcel Bronze, Silver, and Gold team champions.
Kitchen will reopen the gym on the anniversary of Michael's landfall, with the new floor used during this meet as the centerpiece.
She is currently in the running for the FloSports $25,000 Hometown Award in partnership with Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. Voting ends Monday September 30th and can be found here: https://www.flolive.tv/video/6562517-the-2019-hometown-hero-award.
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