COVINGTON, Ga. — One year ago, the Stonecrest Gymnastics team didn’t have a place to practice.
Now they’re trailblazing state champions.
Displaced from their home gym due to COVID-19, the youth gymnastics squad from Lithonia was desperately searching for a temporary home. Coach Socoya Tokumori scoured the web and put out phone calls to handfuls of gyms in her area, but to no avail.
Eventually, her quest led her to stumble across Full Throttle Athletics LLC in Covington.
“I was on Instagram and I just searched the hashtag ‘Gymnastics,’ which puts it for the surrounding area, and Full Throttle came up,” Tokumori recalled. “ I clicked on it and I was like, ‘Oh, gosh. Covington’s an hour from us.’ But, you know, let’s just go on and see.”
She reached out and inquired about renting out the gym. The result was a perfect fit.
“They were the only people who just kind of welcomed us with open arms and said, ‘Yeah, come on!’” Tokumori said. “The price was right. They love our kids, we love them and it works perfectly.”
There was, however, an additional price to pay.
Tokumori lives in McDonough. Most of the kids on her team reside in either Decatur or Stone Mountain. While the girls had been accustomed to training anywhere from 12 to 20 hours per week for competitions, the combination of distance and limited availability led to practice being trimmed down to seven hours a week.
As the season progressed, parents agreed to carpool kids, resulting in just two parents driving each week. According to Tokumori, the kids handled the extra travel with grace and never murmured a complaint in her presence.
But that’s not to say the transition was without its difficulties early on.
“I think the kids kind of fell apart a little bit when we lost our gym because they thought it was over,” Tokumori said. “But I told them if they’re fighting, I’m fighting with them. I think that gave them the push and the drive to go even harder because they knew they had to go through so much more to get to where they wanted to be.”
And fight they did.
The majority of teams competing at the Georgia AAU Gymnastics State Championships in the XCEL Silver Experienced Division had approximately 20 girls on their roster.
Conversely, Stonecrest Gymnastics Team Silver was comprised of just nine girls: Gabrielle Bigsby, Erin Evans, Elanah Evans, Destiny Jackson, Kaylee James, Faith Winfrey, Triniti Coffey, Ekua Ubaka-Blackmoore, Channing Wynn.
But despite the odds, Team Silver earned a first-place finish on May 1 to become the first all-Black team to win a state title in the history of Georgia AAU Gymnastics.
“I am extremely proud of this team. This little group of kids came together and they knocked it out,” Tokumori said. “They really stole the show, honestly. Judges and other coaches were standing up and giving them applause. It was just really arm to see everyone love on them as well.”