Three Young Champions

By Kevin Wilson
Updated: May 30, 2008

MARYLAND — Patricia Delaney, the current Gymnastics manager, and Jodi Morgan, the assistant manager of Gymnastics, at the Wayne Curry Sports and Learning Complex in Landover started writing a proposal, in 2002, describing precisely how they wanted a gymnastics team to be.

Their meaningful concept was approved by the managers of the complex and the higher ups-at the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning in 2004.

In the past three years, the Sportsplex Gymnastics team won almost every Level 4 event throughout the state. Recently, during a Level 5 State Championship, the Sportsplex squad won all four competition levels at home, defeating 20 teams.

Morganne Oliver, 8, Kamala Knight, 9, and Simone Murphy, 10 did exceptionally well, as they became champions for the first time. “The Sportsplex has done an amazing job bringing along these young athletes from starting at Level 0 to becoming state champions at the level they compete,” said Mike DiLeo, owner of MarVa Teens in Rockville, Maryland, who placed second.

The threesome are hard working, disciplined gymnasts, who are academically brilliant and great orators. Morganne is a home school student, who loves Science and animals. Michelle Oliver inspired her daughter to become a gymnasts at age 6, after watching gymnastics on television.

“We stretch, do basic tumbling, beam, floor, vault, dance, two more events and we do flexibility drills,” said the soft spoken honor roll student. Mastering the vault, a gymnasts needs power and speed, and hitting the table correctly is essential.

The vault is the toughest challenge for Morganne. However, her favorite event is the floor. “It’s the only event you get to tumble on,” said the 2008 All-Around Level 5 Child B Champion. Performing in front of a large audience doesn’t faze the pint size competitor at all. Her role model is World Champion Nastia Lufkin.

“We are so amaze she and her young sister has done so well. The cost of gymnastics is not cheap, but we’re willing to support and follow her dream, ” explained her mother.

Homework and practicing four hours per day, four days per week isn’t difficult for the threesome. Morganne and Kamala have Olympian aspirations, but Simone hasn’t quite made up her mind.

Kamala is used to getting blisters on her hands, from playing on the monkey bars at the park. Her favorite event is the bars. The vault is the most challenging aspect in gymnastics for Kamala, an honor roll student, who attends Turning Point Academy.

“You have to use every single muscle in your body, use the springboard and punch really hard for the vault,” she told BASN.

Prior to every meet, threesome encourages one another to do their best and to keep their chins up. Early on, Kamala was stage frightened, but nowadays, the Math buff is getting use to the larger audiences.

She intends on competing in college.

Socially, she rides her bike and skateboard, and plays with the boys in the neighborhood. Starting out, the tomboy admits, she wasn’t good at swimming or basketball.

“Gymnastics seems easy to learn and now I can’t stop,” says the 2008 All Around Level 5 Junior A Champ. Gladys Knight encourages her daughter to get involve at age three.

“I’m delighted she’s putting in a lot of work and time in gymnastics, and happy she’s experienced success at such an early age,” said the mother, a software engineer for N.A.S.A. in Greenbelt.

Wearing glasses, and always gleefully, is Simone Murphy, 10. “A lot of people have inspired me, but my most important person of inspiration is God,” she voiced.

Attending Riverdale Baptist School, Math is her top subject of interest. Never does Simone complain about repeating a drill over and over. “Coach Jodi is a perfectionist, I love her, and the atmosphere here,” she stated.

Experiencing defeat, everyone reacts differently, but not the threesome. Win, lose or draw, they know that Coach Jodi Morgan is behind them, in spite of the outcome. Simone, an A average pupil and Kamala admires Olympian Gold Medalist Dominque Dawes.

Last year, she competed in the Level 5 event, but kept on placing tenth and never placed in the All Around. She never thought she’d make it this far, and she’s elated that her coaches reinstated her to Level 5 in order to become a champion.

Earning the 2008 All Around Level 5 Junior D Champion trophy stimulates Simone to win more. “Good sportsmanship is important,” she says. Her favorite event is the floor. She loves dancing and tumbling. Hanging out with family and friends is of the norm, socially.

“We very excited, doing everything in our power to make her well rounded, she’s very independent, an introvert, and a perfectionist. Gymnastics helps her to improve on things as an individual, and we’re lucky to have a Sports and Learning Complex in our area, the best facility I’ve seen,” said Faye Murphy, Simone’s mother.

The threesome have great personalities. “They are a result of their coaches and the overall structure of the program, with more than 50 champions this year,” said head coach Grace Ortiz.

Coaching consistently for seven years at the Wayne Curry Sports and Learning Complex, Jodi Morgan, 29, a graduate and former gymnasts at Maryland University, is a dedicated youth advocate.

Obviously, one can tell she’s a perfectionist. “It was an amazing feeling, a great culmination of a year of hard work, both on their part and my own trying to prepare them, giving them the tools they needed to be successful,” she concluded.

Overall the threesome have accumulated 91 accolades.

The two, long orange benches, atop the practice site is full of parents, every evening. Barbara Green, a receptionist for the Gymnastics Center, is the check in person.

The retired federal government worker says, “I see potential stars every day.” And, just think, producing champions started with a sensible, well written proposal.