Feb 13, 2012 - By Martin Reed Staff WriterAt a whopping 7 and-a-half years old and sporting pigtails, Violyn Baldeagle launched a waist-level kick while sporting her baby-blue pajama bottoms with little kittens on them.
Her right foot connected with the thick practice pad held by instructor Sandy Watkins from Progressive Tae Kwon Do. After the kick, the child cast a big smile that revealed a missing front tooth as she skipped to the back of the waiting line to repeat the exercise.
The National Girls and Women in Sports Day returned to Riverton on Saturday thanks to the efforts of "R" Recreation organizers.
More than 100 girls from grades first through eighth contributed to the laughs, voices and bouncing balls echoing through Riverton High School's Wolverine Gym for the event that featured nary a guy in sight.
National Girls and Women in Sports Day "is to celebrate the opportunities that girls have in sports so our whole goal is to offer a variety of sports," organizer Mary Axthelm said.
'Involved for a lifetime'
With activities ranging from martial arts, yoga and dancing to soccer, volleyball and basketball, participants had plenty of chances to try out different sports.
"Our goal is to get them active and involved for a lifetime," Axthelm said.
Although 9 in the morning on a Saturday may seem a bit early for loud techno music with thumping bass, the beats provided the soundtrack for a group of girls getting hip-hop dance lessons in the high school lobby.
Inside the gymnasium, Central Wyoming College student Katie O'Donahue helped young girls scale a vertical rock-climbing wall.
O'Donahue is studying outdoor education "so teaching rock climbing fits in well with kids," she said.
Girls grabbed rock-shaped protrusions to find grips for their hands and places for their feet as they inched higher off the ground.
"The purpose of today is to empower girls to do sports because sports are dominated by boys," making activities not the easiest to access, O'Donahue said.
On the rocks
Take rock climbing for instance.
"It's a very boy-dominated sport," she said.
But it's one that girls can appreciate and find tremendous benefit.
"It's really a full-body sport and it takes every ounce of strength you have to try to solve these problems," O'Donahue said.
Mackenzie Becker, 10, tried out the climbing wall for the first time at the event.
"I picked it up because I like to rock climb and it's a nice way to exercise," she said. "It helps you to strengthen your arms and legs."
So is she ready to tackle a mountain?
No," she said, shaking her head, "because I'm scared to."
Myla Hernandez, 8, participated in last year's event and especially liked the rock climbing. "I told my mom, 'Would you sign me up for rock climbing?'" she said.
There are times, Myla said, when she wakes up in the morning and her legs hurt, making her feel like she doesn't want to go to school and participate in physical education class. But Saturday's gathering helps make her feel better.
"I just try to stand up and exercise, and that's why I do rock climbing," she said.
When she's clinging to the climbing wall, she feels a bit of fear.
"Yeah, kind of, because I kind of feel like I'm going to fall backwards and hit my head," she said.
Myla doesn't think she will conquer any mountain peaks soon. Although she has a small desire to go climbing, "it would be kind of scary because I'm afraid of heights," she said.
As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.
"I hope they can gain the confidence to try new things," O'Donahue said.
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