The largest men's gymnastics meet draws hundreds of young athletes to Bakersfield

Organizers host area challenge for 11th year

BAKERSFIELD -  

Hundreds of young athletes are competing in one of the largest men's gymnastics event in the country.

The West Coast Team Challenge has been taking place all weekend in northwest Bakersfield.

Some of the athletes train all their lives, while many others use it as a stepping-stone to bigger things.          

Brett Ridley, 17, can’t imagine doing anything else.

"It's so much fun.  I don't know what I would do without it," said Ridley.

Ridley started training in gymnastics at a very young age and just like his teammates, he wants to someday compete in the Olympics.

"I do it because I love it. I've been doing it since I was 4 years old and I’m 17.  This is my 13th year here and this is my 10th competing too and this is the greatest thing you can ever do and its amazing," he said.

Athletes train for up to 16 hours a week and say there's a lesson behind every move.

"It teaches you self-determination and it teaches you not to give up on yourself," said Ridley.

Hundreds of athletes take part in this weekend event every year.  They come over all the United States and some even make it all the way to the Olympics.

The West Coast Team Challenge is part of the USA Gymnastic Junior Development program with individual and team competitions that prepare athletes for a bright future.

"You teach kids good gym skills in whatever sports they decide they are competing in. If they become wrestlers like I did or football players or swimming or whatever they choose, gymnastics is a great development skill for all those sports," said Mike Williams, owner of the American Kids Sports Center.

Leaders with the meet say this year's group of athletes seems to have what it takes to one-day take gold.

"Sports like gymnastics teaches life skills and that's our vision and mission at American Kids, is to help kids create strong value systems, set goals based on those values and then it's our job to teach them skills, but the skills are life skills," he said.

This is the 11th year for the event.

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