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Just Like Old Times

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Gary's Tumbling Alumni Hitting The Mats Once Again

By Joe Foreman, Editor

There’s a few moans, a few groans and an occasional  whisper of “I’m not sure I can still do that anymore,” but for the most part, the “alumni” from Gary’s Tumbling in Glenwood have picked right up where they left off so many years ago.

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For the past month, about a dozen graduates of Gary Giaffoglione’s nearly three-decade old tumbling program have been hitting the mats on Wednesday nights to perform aerials, back tucks, airplanes, somersaults and more. There’s a lot of laughter and reminiscing about old times.

“We talked about doing this for months. I always thought it would be neat to have the alumni come back,” Gary said. “Gina ran with it. We figured we’d get one or two, but the turnout has been greater than we expected.”

Gina (Giaffoglione) Springhower, Gary’s daughter, is the primary instructor for the program now. In May, she announced on social media that there was interest in having an alumni class and invited former tumblers that wanted to join to show up.

“Things just blew up from there,” she said.

About a dozen alumni, ranging in age from 18 to 30-something, came to the first class on June 6 and the numbers have been climbing ever since.

“It’s just fun and they’re all so good,” Gina said. “None of them have lost it.”

Gary, too, is impressed by the abilities of his former students.

“It just melts my heart that they can all still do it,” he said.

Emily (Smith) Portrey is one of the alumni tumblers embracing the opportunity to be on the mat again. She was a tumbler under Gary’s tutelage from 1996-2002. Now, she has a child of her own in the program.

“My daughter, who is 4 years old, started with Gary’s Tumbling,” she said. “I told Gina I’d like to do some stretching, but it’s turned into more than that. My body’s not quite into tumbling shape, yet.”

Portrey was a couple years ahead of Gina in school. Gina said seeing her friend tumble again brings back fond memories of their younger days.

“Seeing Emily out there brings back so much joy,” Gina said. “She probably doesn’t know it, but I really looked up to her.”

Alana Fredrickson was a tumbler with Gary’s from 2002-2007 and a member of the Fantastic Flyers exhibition team. She learned about the alumni class on Gina’s social media post.

“Once you do this (tumbling), you keep it in your blood,” she said. “I didn’t realize when you don’t do it for so long, it takes awhile to build the nerves back up to let yourself go. It took awhile to get going.”

Gina said the first night of the class was more of an informal open gym, but at the request of the alumni, the class is now more structured with Gary and Gina coaching along the way. Flexibility and strength are emphasized and Gina noted that for safety reasons, only former Gary’s Tumbling students are allowed to take part in the class. The alumni already have an understanding of tumbling and know what’s expected of them in the gym.

Gina said she and her family are touched that tumbling continues to be important to the program’s former students.

“To know that this means so much to them to come back is very special,” she said. “The love they all have for it is because of the love Dad has for it. And Mom (Cheryl Giaffoglione) has been in the background doing all the organization and business stuff for us. We wouldn’t be here without her.”

Gary and Gina both hinted that a public performance by the alumni tumblers could be in order sometime down the road. They just have to convince their students to go along with the idea.

Gary’s Tumbling Alumni Class meets Wednesday evenings from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. in basement of the Glenwood American Legion building.