After an early-morning workout at the Great American Gymnastics Express in Blue Springs, the facility’s latest stars were asked to pose for a photo.

Leanne Wong of Lenexa, Kan., and JaFree Scott of Independence, are the latest entries in the line of gymnastics royalty at GAGE, where they train with coaches Al Fong and Armine Barutyan.

As they climb atop a piece of gymnastics equipment, they look at the large banners that will be featured in the background.

One is of two-time Olympic silver medalist Terin Humphrey, another GAGE protege, and one features Barutyan hugging a GAGE gymnast.

When asked if they would like to be placed on a banner in the gym, they nod in agreement.

“That would be so cool,” said Scott, 14, who will be a freshman at William Chrisman High School.

Added Wong: “But we have a lot of work to do, to do what all those gymnasts accomplished.”

They took the first step towards GAGE immortality by being selected to represent the United States at the 2018 Junior Pan American Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Team USA, which was coached by Barutyan, captured the gold medal in the team competition. Wong, took the bronze in the all-around competition and qualified to compete on bars, beam and vault, earning a silver medal in each event.

Scott did not earn an individual medal, but her all-around performance helped earn her a spot on Team USA, which will compete in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in October.

They will also compete in the Junior National Championship in Boston in August.

“They are on the fast track to great things,” said Fong, GAGE’s founder and owner, who is also Barutyan’s husband.

“To have two girls from the same club on the Junior National team is so exciting. Armine has done an amazing job working with these young ladies. This is just the first step, their first taste of international competition, and they did a great job representing GAGE and their country.”

Scott said her first international meet was unforgettable.

“It was just amazing to be around so many athletes from other countries,” Scott said. “It was such a great experience. I really didn’t know what to expect, but it was better than anything I imagined.”

And what did she think of making Team USA?

“That was the most amazing thing,” she added. “And to be on the same team with Leanne makes it even better. And to have Armine as our coach is just wonderful.”

Wong agreed, adding: “At my first international meet, to get third all around was so special. I didn’t really know what to expect. I went to do well and to earn a place on Team USA and I worked hard and accomplished my goal.

“JaFree and I will always remember our first international meet.”

So will their appreciative coach.

“I am very proud of Leanne and JaFree,” Barutyan said. “To do so well, to make the USA team in their first international event shows how special these two young ladies are.

 

“It was winter in Argentina and it was very cold where they competed. They had to overcome that, the international stage and working on new equipment, that was not like the equipment they had worked on in the United States, and they overcame all of that and had so much success.”