More than 700 gymnasts headed to Vicksburg for Mississippi state meet

Published 8:00 am Thursday, March 7, 2019

From tumblers to vaulters, beam walkers to bar swingers, Vicksburg is bracing for an invasion this weekend of gymnasts of all types.

More than 700 young gymnasts from around the state will descend on the city for the 2019 Mississippi USA State Gymnastics Championship. The three-day meet begins Friday morning at the Vicksburg Convention Center and will include competition in 15 skill levels ranging from the 4- to 18-year-olds age divisions.

“There’s going to be all sorts of little girls in leotards running around Vicksburg,” laughed Cherry Dabney-Robbins, former owner of GymSouth and now an advisor to a number of the state’s gyms.

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Robbins was one of the driving forces behind bringing the state meet to Vicksburg. It had been held in Tupelo for years, but the Mississippi USA Gymnastics board of directors decided several years ago to rotate it around the state to ease travel for gymnasts and their families.

Dabney-Robbins and the Vicksburg Convention Center staff worked together to put in a bid to host the meet and stuck the landing. It will be held in Vicksburg in 2019 and 2020. VCC executive director Annette Kirklin estimated the meet will bring approximately $950,000 into the city this weekend.

“We’re looking at a very nice number for the city. We’re just trying to tell those restaurants to be ready. It’s a coup for the city, and for (the convention center), because there’s a lot of people that haven’t been in the building before,” Kirklin said. “It’s something we really wanted, and we wanted to open the door to these types of events. We have the space to do it, and we want to show what we can do.”

Mississippi USA Gymnastics plans to rotate the site of the state meet every two years — it was in Biloxi in 2017 and 2018 — so after this two-year run in Vicksburg it will be a few years before it returns. Cynthia Dedeaux, the state chairman of Mississippi USA Gymnastics, said the meet would likely return to North Mississippi in 2021 and 2022.

Dedeaux and Dabney-Robbins, however, both were optimistic that Vicksburg could become a regular host when it’s time to bring the meet back to the central part of the state.

“It’s right in the center. So far it’s been really great. Everybody’s working really great with us. The convention center is getting good reviews,” Dedeaux said.

Gymnasts will begin arriving in Vicksburg on Thursday, and the first of 10 meet sessions starts at 10 a.m. Friday with some of the more advanced gymnasts in the Levels 4, 5 and the Xcel Gold groups.

Another batch of Xcel Gold gymnasts will compete in the second session at 1:30 p.m. Friday, and the final session of the day at 5 p.m. features the Xcel Platinum and Level 8, 9 and 10 divisions.

Four sessions will be held Saturday, at 9 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The meet concludes Sunday with sessions at 8 and 10:30 a.m., and 1 p.m.

Admission for fans is $15 per day for adults, and $7 for children and seniors. A concession stand will be open inside the convention center with healthy snacks and drinks, Kirklin said.

“They’re going to have lots of healthy food, per the gymnasts request. That’s what they like,” Kirklin said.

At Vicksburg Convention Center

• Friday: 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
• Saturday: 9 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
• Sunday: 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
• Admission: $15 per day for adults, and $7 for children and seniors

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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