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Middleville gym set to celebrate 30 years

Doug and Cathy Fairchild stand outside the gym Cathy opened soon after opening Gymnastics in Motion 30 years ago. Plans are underway for a 30th anniversary celebration Aug. 24.

Brett Bremer

Sports Editor

Cathy Fairchild managed to be a dual sport athlete during the winter season during her time at Thornapple Kellogg High School in the mid 1970s.

Fairchild got up early for 6 a.m. volleyball practice. The high school boys' basketball teams got the gymnasium after school so the volleyball teams made due. On the balcony above the bleachers was where the few years of high school gymnastics at TKHS took place, and with little conflict between volleyball and gymnastics competitions she joined the gymnasts in the afternoon.

Her afternoons and evenings are still filled with gymnastics.

Fairchild's Gymnastics in Motion (GIM) in Middleville is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. Fairchild started working at Caledonia Gymnastics in downtown Middleville, where her son Brandon Moma took classes. She bought the business from its owner in 1989 changing its name to Gymnastics in Motion.

“I probably had 30 or maybe 40 kids total,” Fairchild said. “I had two or three kids on team. Now I have 50 on team and probably 300 total in the gym.

“It has grown a little bit.”

She began work nearly immediately at getting her own gym constructed and getting out of the rental space where classes were held downtown. It was a bit of a struggle. Thornapple Township was just taking over its own zoning from Barry County in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The township had yet to come up with a master plan when Fairchild began the process of getting her gym where it is currently situated at 3207 N. M-37 Highway, just south of the limits of the Village of Middleville.

“I was kind of the guinea pig going through,” Fairchild said. “When I applied, I applied for commercial zoning and they turned that down. I had to go back.”

Eventually, an application for special use zoning was approved.

There will be an open house Aug. 24 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the gym. GIM will be giving away free GIM kids' T-shirts (while supplies last), host a free open gym for those ages 3 to 21, there will be free cake and free Schwan's ice cream for all. Gymnasts who sign up for September classes during the event, and pay the annual membership fee in full that day, will receive $10 off each class session that they sign up for.

Throughout the 30 years GIM grown and added more classes, class times, began offering birthday parties and cheer tumble classes. One of the recent hits is a Ninja’s In Motion program that includes the quintuple steps, hanging sticks, swing bars, an unstable bridge, cargo net, climbing rope, climbing ledges, climbing wall, an obstacle course and a 14-foot warped wall.

GIM offers gymnastics classes for all abilities, ages 3 to 21. Ninja classes are for beginners to advanced, ages 5 to 21. GIM also offer competitive girl’s gymnastics teams for Level 2, Level 3 and all levels of USAG XCEL. There are also high school/college age open gym times being offered every Thursday from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

On most weeknights throughout the season, starting in September, the gym is full from 4:15 p.m. until nearly 9 p.m.

Fairchild said the biggest challenge she foresees for GIM in the future is having enough gym space for everyone that wants to be included. She expects another bump following the 2020 Summer Olympics next summer. It is a regular occurrence every four years. She said the gym sees about a 25 percent boost in attendance.

The year before Fairchild took over the program the entire United States gymnastics team, both men and women combined, earned a single bronze medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. As USA gymnastics has grown, so has gymnastics participation around the country. The USA led the gymnastics medal count at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The USA women won the team all-around title in Brazil, with Simone Biles adding an individual all-around gold medal as well as gold in both the floor exercise and the vault.

The gym has also seen participation rise as the sport of competitive cheer has grown.

Amber Snow, one of the Middleville coaches for Champion Force cheerleading said her program started working at the gym about a dozen years ago and GIM started hosting tumbling classes for her cheerleaders a few years after that. The program's top teams all practice at GIM.

“It is a nice little partnership we've had going on for a number of years,” Snow said.

“It is good gymnastics and fun gymnastics,” Fairchild said of why things have been so successful to this point.

“It's God taking care of the kids,” she added, “every time they walk into the gym. Nobody has gotten hurt, Sending me good coaches. A lot of my coaches are kids that I had on teams that grew up and now they are coaching for me. My head coach right now, I've had her since she was eight years old. She went through the whole team thing and now she is my head coach.”

Gymnasts don't just come back to coach. They come back just to be a part of the gym from time to time. Fairchild has an annual sleepover after team tryouts. She said the 60 or so current gymnasts set for a sleep over at the gym were joined by five or six former gymnasts who came back to have snacks with the new team and spend the night.

“That was kind of nice that they think of it as a fun place, a safe place, kind of like their second home,” Fairchild said.

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