Denis Berry, Delaney Bloyder, Claire Molnar, Lydia Murphy and coach Kari Street at the Western Championships | photo courtesy of Denis Berry

3 Billings Gymnasts Compete at National Level

May 19, 2021

by robyn fogle

A talented trio of young Billings gymnasts made Montana proud earlier this month as they competed at the USA Gymnastics Western Championships held in Coralville, Iowa. Billings West seniors Delaney Bloyder and Lydia Murphy, along with Laurel 7th grander Claire Molnar, advanced to the Western Championships after first competing against athletes from Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington at the regional competition held last month in Helena.

Delaney Bloyder, Claire Molnar, Lydia Murphy | photo courtesy of Denis Berry

In order to qualify for advancement to Nationals they needed to place in the top 7 in their age group and receive an all-around score of at least 34. The Western National Championships encompasses 4 regions spanning 24 states, and despite the fierce competition, Billings was well-represented on the podium. Lydia placed 6th on bars and Delaney placed 8th in both bars and floor. 

“I knew the competition was going to be really tough so my goal was not to place. I just wanted to make all of my routines and do my best, placing was just an added bonus” says Delaney.

The two seniors have been training at Billings Gymnastics School (BGS) since they were 2-years-old. Gym manager and head coach Denis Berry notes that “Every single one of them has some talent just to get to this level,” but that talent will only take you so far. It’s their grit, dedication, commitment, and perseverance that truly helped them excel at such a high level.

Committing to 3-hour practices 4 days per week is just the beginning. Berry proudly boasts that the girls show up when they don’t have to, they don’t quit when it gets tough and they pick themselves up when they fall down. “They stick it out because they love it,” he says, adding that BGS encourages their students to focus on improvement and performing at their personal best. 

Overcoming failure and challenges is all par for the course in this competitive and tough sport where perfection is expected. “Although there can be good days and bad days in gymnastics, you can’t let the bad days discourage you or define you as a gymnast,” says Lydia. “Staying positive and believing in yourself are key components in this sport,” she explains, that it’s just as much about mental strength as it is physical strength. Her love for the sport encompasses these dual challenges. “Setting goals and achieving them is euphoric and being around other gymnasts that have the same passion for the sport is what kept me in the sport for so many years,” she relates.

Delaney’s love for the sport is similar. “What I love most about gymnastics is the friendships and that the sport never let me be anything besides my best. Gymnastics teaches you to push through every little fear and challenge in your life,” she observes. Of course she loves the physical side of the sport as well and shared how exhilarating it is to learn and then execute new skills she never thought she’d be able to learn.

Delaney is flipping between the bars at State, where she placed 1st out of the entire state | photo courtesy of Denis Berry

Coach Berry emphasizes how the BGS coaches encourage their kids to be well-rounded and involved in other teams, go to their senior proms, enjoy their lives, and recognize that they don’t have to train 30 hours per week in order to stay competitive. “The coaches are very encouraging and truly care about the athletes,” says Delaney who loves that she has had the same coach for 8 or 9 years unlike other sports where coaches may change every year or two.

Billings Gymnastics School has been a part of the Billings community for over 40 years and offers a unique outlet for kids to burn off energy while also having fun. “We have coaches that are a lot of fun; they make fitness fun,” says Berry. “It’s somewhere you can go be yourself and learn to flip around and meet some good friends, build fundamental skills like waiting your turn and learning to get back up when you fall down, knowing you’re not going to always win and that’s ok,”  he explains. Life lessons that he has seen help kids become better teens and adults outside of the gym as well. “Those that have graduated high school, they’ve all become outstanding citizens...they do things with their life, they come back and help their community,” says Berry.

Claire is concentrating on her acrobatic series on the beam | photo courtesy of Denis Berry

Lydia will attend MSU Bozeman in the Fall, and while she does not plan to pursue gymnastics in college, she recognizes that the values she has learned through the sport are ones that will benefit her throughout her life. “Hard work, time management, perseverance, overcoming adversity, and knowing that a bad day will eventually lead to a good day,” she says.

Lydia is twisting off the Beam at Westerns | photo courtesy of Denis Berry

“[Gymnastics] can be very challenging and frustrating, but the friendships, life lessons, and the feeling of accomplishment once you make it through, or even just when you get a new skill, makes it all worth it a hundred times over,” agrees Delaney who will attend Rocky Mountain College in the Fall. She plans to continue coaching at BGS and desires to make an impact on her students in the same way that her coaches have had on her. “(My coaches) have had such a huge impact on my life, and my hope is that one day I can be there for the gymnasts I coach and encourage them just like my coaches did for me.” 

Congratulations to these outstanding athletes and coaches! 

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