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Busy weekend for local gymnasts

Hays will play host to district meet

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

It's going to be a busy weekend for Tawnita Augustine.

The Hays Heartland Allstars youth gymnastics team will play host to the Missouri Valley District Championships on Friday through Sunday at Gross Memorial Coliseum in Hays. Augustine and her husband, Richard, are the squad's coaches.

"We have some really talented young women," she said. "We have several that have gone to nationals."

Competition starts at noon Friday and 8 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Children younger than 3 get in free.

There will be 33 teams and 700 gymnasts competing; Heartland will bring a squad of 37 to the meet.

This weekend is the highlight of the season.

"Especially since we're hosting it, probably a lot more nerve-wracking," said Deonna Wellbrock, 13, whose favorite event is floor exercise.

"Because I can express myself, with my music," Wellbrock said.

Wellbrock, who has been in gymnastics since she was little, said it benefits her in volleyball and soccer, too.

"I like it because I can stay flexible," she said. "It makes me a lot better in all my other sports. It's kept me out of a lot of injuries, too."

Kacee Klozenbucher, 12, started in gymnastics in her hometown of La Crosse before joining Heartland.

"My parents put me in (gymnastics) because when I was little I could do the splits, so I was really flexible," Klozenbucher said.

Her parents first put Wellbrock in gymnastics in part to burn off some energy.

"When I was little, I was told my parents just wanted to get me out of the house, because I was bouncing off the walls all the time," she said with a laugh.

The Augustines started the academy in 1990, the same year Fort Hays State University eliminated its gymnastics program, where they were the team's coaches for nine years.

"I loved Fort Hays," Tawnita Augustine said. "It just wasn't in the cards to keep the program."

The Augustines also owned and operated Augustino's Pizza for 21 years until it closed in 2000.

"I tell people my husband flipped pizzas by day and gymnasts by night," Tawnita Augustine said.

Heartland played host to the district meet in 2006 and 2009, and now this weekend.

"We're hopefully going to rock the coliseum," Tawnita Augustine said.