Former Great American Gymnastics Express (GAGE) award-winning collegiate and international gymnasts Lynnzee Brown, Sarah Finnegan and Brenna Dowell huddled on the mats inside the Blue Springs gymnasium and giggled like a group of teens at a slumber party.
“This is so much fun,” said Finnegan, a graduate of Louisiana State University who was a 23-time All-American, “seeing all our friends and working with all the young gymnasts. Gosh, they’re about the same age we were when we started.”
The trio of former GAGE stars joined 2004 Olympic silver medal winning gymnast Courtney McCool and coaches from across the nation, including Arizona, Oklahoma, Georgia, Utah, North Carolina and an international coach from Barcelona, Spain.
“It’s so exciting to have all these great coaches in working our camp,” said GAGE owner Al Fong, who along with his wife Armine Baruytan worked with McCool, Brown, Finnegan and Dowell. “But we really enjoy having our former GAGE girls back. They have meant so much to our program and all this week they have been like magnets to all our younger gymnasts.
“The little girls are so attracted to Courtney, Lynnzee, Sarah and Brenna. And we have youngsters from all over the United States. It’s been an exciting week and the girls have had a lot of fun and really learned a lot, too.”
Each of the former gymnasts enjoyed great success at the collegiate ranks.
Along with being a 23-time All-American, Finnegan was a two-time individual national champion, a two-time SEC Gymnast of the Year and five-time All-SEC performer.
“The last four years were the best years of my life,” said Finnegan, who graduated with a degree in kinesiology and a minor in psychology. “Now, I’m having so much fun coming back to GAGE to coach with Al and Armine. It’s so different when you are a peer, and not a gymnast they are coaching.
“We’ve always had a great relationship, but this week has been a lot of fun and a lot less intense.”
Brown and Dowell smile and nod in agreement.
Dowell, who is about to graduate with a masters degree in economics from the University of Oklahoma, earned an array of honors as a Sooner.
The perennial All-American was the NCAA co-floor national champion as a senior. Dowell was also the South Central Region Gymnast of the Year and the Big 12 Gymnast of the Year. She was a first-team All-American on the floor and all-around and second-team on the vault.
“I can’t believe it’s all coming to an end,” said Dowell, who took the 2015 collegiate season off to return to elite international competition. “I’m going to graduate this summer and I have so many wonderful memories of both GAGE and the University of Oklahoma.
“It’s so much fun to come back and work with Al and Armine and all the young gymnasts. They look so young – I guess, just like we did when we started.”
The youngest of the group is Brown, who is a junior at Denver University, where she recorded her first perfect 10 this past season to become the 2019 NCAA floor exercise champion.
“Brenna and I are best friends, and to come back and coach with her and Sarah and the other amazing coaches is special,” said Brown, who was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year as a freshman. “For me, gymnastics is a culture and I am so excited about the future at Denver.”