As the city of Fort Worth gears up for this weekend’s NCAA National Championships, there’s more athletics that will take place there than just gymnastics. On Saturday, April 20, gymnastics fans and local runners alike will gather downtown to run in the first annual Flippin’ 5K race. Gymnasts, fans, and former competitors have committed to either running the race or donating money to support it as they get ready to watch that evening’s team final (or for some, serve as direct participants on the floor).
However, the event is much more than a pre-meet gathering. Put on in support of the Collegiate Gymnastics Growth Initiative (CGGI), an offshoot of the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association, the focus of CGGI is to raise awareness about gymnastics to encourage universities to consider adding the sport to their athletic programs. The funds raised from registration from this event will go toward doing exactly that.
UCLA associate head coach Randy Lane helped to start the CGGI about 13 years ago, and he recently came back to serve as its chair. When it was founded, “a lot of programs were being dropped,” Lane, who was once a head coach of a now-defunct program, said. “We started the committee to help save our sport and encourage people to realize how beautiful our sport is.”
When he returned to chair the committee, Lane brought with him some lofty goals; primarily, he wished to raise $100,000 through various initiatives. This money will hopefully go to establishing an endowment account to provide universities with assistance in starting programs (or potentially keeping them alive). The committee has worked toward this goal in part by partnering with more than 20 invitational meets at the J.O. level who upped their registration price by just $1 per gymnast, which has gone to support the endowment.
The Flippin’ 5K, which is being held for the first time ever, will serve as the culmination for the year’s fundraising efforts. The race was envisioned last summer by Texas Woman’s head coach Lisa Bowerman and Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth. Bowerman recalls that the committee was, “brainstorming ways to raise funds and to create a greater awareness for what we are trying to do and for how individuals can help.”
In addition to crowd-sourced support, Essence Magazine was brought on as a major sponsor through its Girls United initiative, which is dedicated to supporting women in sports. They will also help support a feature of the event that will specifically celebrate African American women who have won NCAA gymnastics championships.
As for a location for the race, the planners didn’t have to look far. According to Bowerman, whose TWU program is also co-sponsoring the championships as a whole, there was no better place for the event than right in the center of postseason action. “We knew that having it here in Fort Worth would be a great opportunity to get a great deal of exposure and support from the incredible gymnastics community in this area and beyond.”
The race is set to be an exciting event that celebrates the abilities of the sport to bring people together and serve as a positive force of change. In addition to the race, there will also be a social and a post-race gathering that will include music and a pancake breakfast.
Anyone in the area is encouraged to participate. Lane and Bowerman both stressed that there are no prerequisites for running—or walking or even crawling—the race other than a desire to see gymnastics succeed. “The biggest process throughout preparation has been not only fulfilling the purpose of who we are and what we’re about, but also having a clear message: that everyone is included,” Lane said. “If gymnastics touches your lives, then we have a place for you.”
Sign up for the race or donate to the CGGI here.
Article by Katherine Weaver
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