Moultrie YMCA Level 6 Gymnast Win 2018 YMCA Nationals

Published Monday, July 9, 2018

MOULTRIE - This past week, the Moultrie YMCA level 6 gymnastics team competed in the 2018 YMCA Nationals competition in Toledo, Ohio.

Moultrie’s youngest optional team in several years included seven girls; two out of the seven competed in the previous year at Y Nationals, leaving the other five as the rookies of the team. The team did more than just travel miles and miles to compete.

The MGs brought home the National Championship banner with a team score of 149.625.


However, during the awards ceremony, the team was announced as having finished in fourth place.

The gymnasts left the Seagate Center Arena determined to do better the following year, not knowing at the time that there was a mistake in the scoring printout.

While relaxing in the pool after a hard meet, they received a call from the National committee to give them the good news that they were actually the level 6 National Champions. Needless to say, they were filled with tears of joys and overwhelmed with excitement to know their hard work and determination had finally paid off.

“The girls were awesome,” said coach Bob Swadel. “By far their best performance of the year and the best by an MG team since our first place in the Y Nationals Championship Division in 2011. I could tell by the reaction of opposing team coaches during the practice day that our girls would be hard to beat if they were consistent during the meet.

“I mentioned to the girls after their successful intersquad meet that any team that outscores us in Toldeo would have to be very good and would have to bring their ‘A-game’ to Nationals.”

MGs co-president Courtney Almond said the theme for YMCA Nationals this year was “Shattering Expectations.”

“Thanks to the amazing coaches at our YMCA for preparing and training our MG team to do just that - shatter expectations,” she said. “Our girls not only walked away as the Level 6 National Champions, they also walked away as a closer group of girls.

“This experience allowed them to develop a deeper bond that will help them fit into their roles as leaders within the gym. I’m beyond proud of our coaches, MG team and YMCA gymnastics program. I can’t wait to see what the new season offers.”

Nyla Thompson led the team to victory by counting for team score on every event. She was the beam and bars champion in her group with a 9.625 on beam and a 9.375 on bars. Her 9.375 on bars broke the MG level 6 bars record. She also added a second-place finish on vault with a 9.525 and second on floor with a 9.4.

Thompson placed first all around in the youngest age group with a 37.925, which was her personal best AA for the season. Thompson also won the TOP AA Award for receiving the highest AA score among all the level 6s in the competition.

“Nyla was the best level 6 among the 275 gymnasts who competed,” Swadel said. “What a way to end one of the finest individual seasons I can remember from any MG gymnast.”

Gina Morabito was another who contributed to the team score on every event. She had a personal best on beam with a 9.575 for third place and on bars with a 9.1 for fourth place. She also placed fifth on floor with a 9.2 and sixth on vault with a 9.35. Morabito placed fourth in the AA with a personal best score of 37.225.

Ashley Almond had three personal bests. She placed third on vault with a 9.5 and second on bars with a 9.2. She also placed fifth on beam with a 9.35 and seventh on floor with a 9.175. Almond counted for team score on every event and placed fourth overall with a personal best score of 37.225.

Becca Clayton placed fourth on floor with a personal best score of 9.3, which counted for team score. She also placed seventh on vault with a 9.2 and scored a 9.2 on beam, which was another personal best. Clayton scored an 8.65 on bars and finished the meet in sixth place with a 36.35 AA, which was her personal best AA for the year.

Lathan Brown counted for team score on beam with a personal best score of 9.225. She also placed third on bars with a 9.175 and scored a 9.1 on vault. Brown scored an 8.85 on floor and placed 6th in the AA with a personal best score of 36.35.

Anabele Gonzales was the bars champion in the junior age group with a 9.075. She placed second on vault with a 9.0 and scored an 8.875 on floor. Gonzales scored an 8.825 on beam and finished the meet in 3rd place with a 35.775.

Ali’sia Johnson broke the MG level 6 vault record, scoring a 9.55, placing her first in her group. She also had personal bests on bars and beam, scoring an 8.5 on bars and an 8.825 on beam. Johnson scored an 8.625 on floor and finished the meet with a 35.55 AA.


“The girls have been practicing and preparing themselves mentally and physically,” said coach Ben Clayton. “They went into this meet with the confidence that they needed to pull off the win that they earned.

“Although due to illness, they were missing Coach Bria (Blakely) who is the heart of their team that pushed them harder to bring home the win. Without the dedication of the MG coaching staff and the determination of the gymnasts, this championship would not have been possible.”

This year’s Y Nationals was the final one for longtime MG coach Allen Harden, who is retiring after 45 years of coaching, 23 at the Moultrie YMCA.

“It is a great feeling when all of the hard work throughout the year that the gymnast puts in comes out at the Y National Championship meet,” Harden said. “Just about everyone had their personal best meet of the season and the results were the Moultrie Y MG’s were the dominant team, winning most of the top places in their age division, having the top All-Around gymnast of all age groups, and winning the level 6 team competition.

“This puts pressure on the girls to continue the high standards that the MG’s have at Y Nationals. I know they can do it!”

Swadel said the Moultrie YMCA will miss Harden’s contributions to its gymnastics program.

“His countless hours of hard work and dedication to our program are greatly appreciated,” Swadel said. “This highly respected master coach also had a daughter, Christina Blanton, who was an MG gymnast and also coached and contributed her talents and skills to our gymnastics program.

“Their legacy will leave a tremendous impact on our program. The girls heard sad news from him and shed a few tears after they delivered the best retirement gift any coach could have, a National Championship."