Five years ago in a feat of strength, Erin Lebois was one of six girls to balance herself from two 18-foot ladders held together by three men as a member of the University of Maryland’s Gymkana Troupe.
“[The] ladders [act] was what I did best,” she said of her time in the group.
Now, as a physical education teacher at Parr’s Ridge Elementary School in Mount Airy, Lebois was able to share her passion for gymnastics with her students by arranging a performance by the troupe at the school.
The acrobatic group, composed of 85 University of Maryland students, performed in front of about 300 students Friday, as an exciting end to a gymnastics unit in physical education.
The troupe performed two 60-minute sessions, which included aerial acrobatics, dance and gymnastics routines. As part of the act, students performed hanging rings stunts, as well as on trampolines and a vaulting box.
During their gymnastics unit, which ended about two weeks ago, Parr’s Ridge students were taught about weight transfer by learning how to perform cartwheels and hand stands. They also learned balance and tumbling skills.
“I hope [that the performance] inspires them to try new things,” Lebois said. “I think it’s great that [the students] get to see that both boys and girls can do gymnastics.”
“My favorite thing was all the cool flips,” said Steele Fritchie, 7, a first-grader at the school.
The gymnastics group travels throughout the region to promote drug-free, healthy living to young people through its performances. Each member pledges to abstain from using drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
Lebois said that Gymkana team members are great role models for the elementary students.
“We always tell the kids ‘You want to keep your body healthy, exercise,’ and I think [Gymkana] has a great message,” she said.
Tristann Brown, a troupe member and University of Maryland senior, said that Gymkana can help reinforce the healthy living message that teachers give every day.
“I think it just makes a bigger impact than someone just telling them,” she said. “Seeing a flip is more memorable, so we hope it gets our message across.”
Claire Waters, 6, another first-grader, said she would like to join the troupe when she is older.
“I want them to come to my birthday party,” she said.
Claire said she’s been taking gymnastics classes for about a year and has learned how to do some tricks on the trampoline and uneven bars. Now, she said she is learning how to do a back handspring.
Devon Freed, 6, another first-grader, who has been practicing gymnastics for about three years, said that his favorite part of the troupe’s performance was their vaulting act.
“I like when [they flip] that they were up high in the air,” he said.