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Through the Viewfinder: Gymnastics participants have fun in class

From left, Sophia Clem, 4, Sway Huff, 3, and Abby Thorpe, 4, walk on the balance beam during practice at the Natchez Gymnastics Association. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

From left, Sophia Clem, 4, Sway Huff, 3, and Abby Thorpe, 4, walk on the balance beam during practice at the Natchez Gymnastics Association. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Editor’s note: The Viewfinder is a weekly feature in which a photographer tells a story through the lens of a camera.

NATCHEZ At the end of practice, four students and their instructor, Kim Strawbridge, come together in a circle before putting their hands in the middle.

“1, 2, 3,” said Strawbridge before all five yelled in unison. “Gymnastics!”

In the 3- and 4-year-old class for the Natchez Gymnastics Association, the goal is to have fun.

Huff gets help walking on the balance beam by instructor Kim Strawbridge during practice. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Huff gets help walking on the balance beam by instructor Kim Strawbridge during practice. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

There are no screaming coaches or competitive parents, just the kind of laughter that only little girls can produce.

During a class, the girls do a variety of activities from balancing on a beam to jumping on a trampoline.

“This is my favorite class to teach,” said Kim Strawbridge, who has been a gymnastics and cheer coach for 27 years. “The focus is to just having a good time, and I think that’s the kind of attitude that helps the girls grow the most.”

Gymnastics student Abby Thorpe, 4, loves the class and is proud of what she has done.

“I learned how to do a cartwheel,” she said.

Thorpe has even developed goals for herself.

In the middle of the class, while the other girls were balancing on the beam, Abby caught herself looking up at the slew of trophies in the gym.

“I want to win one and give it to my mom,” she later said.

For Tina Huff, the class just made sense for her daughter Sway, 3.

“She was always doing flips and somersaults around the house,” Huff said. “So I thought it would be best for her to actually know how to do the moves.”

Now, Sway can’t get enough of the class.

“During the holiday break, she asked me if we were going to go to gymnastics class,” Huff said. “And I told her, ‘No, we were going to go meet Santa,’ and she got really sad.”