Front left to right: Gwendolyn Huling, Ava Grace Rustin, Raelyn Embry, Raylynne Allen with her All American Award, Hailey Hall, Ali Raney, second row left to right: Mariyah Wilhite, Saylor Benson, Jorja Durden, Abigail Simms, Greenlee Ballew, Isabella Tanner, Lana Worsham, Tristian Baker, back row left to right: Coaches Dody McGregor, Kayla Reed, Brandi Cook, Commissioners Kenneth Rivers, Keith Douglas, Robert Henderson, Joe Brown, Russ Crubley, and Coach Cherilynn Paris. Not pictured are Raeleigh Thompson, Emaleigh Deems. Lola Cheatham, Gracie Roper, Lucy Worley, Kara Colwell, Madyson Collett, Brinnly Hall, Lila Hunsucker, Elle Smith, and Ansley Potts.

Rec Force, the gymnastics team sponsored by Butts County Leisure Services, was honored by the Butts County Board of Commissioners at their Sept. 13 meeting for the girls’ success this season, including winning individual state and national titles.

Leisure Services director Mary Lynn Overbey told the commissioners that the girls deserve recognition for their accomplishments.

“These girls have worked extremely hard this year, especially dealing with Covid this season,” Overybey said. “They’ve competed in state and national championships and we want to recognize them for that.”

Before bringing the girls up, Overbey had a special recognition for one of the team’s volunteer coaches.

“Ms. Dody McGregor has just recently retired,” Overbey said. “She has served for several years with these girls in this gymnastics program, and I attribute a lot of their success to her dedication to them.”

McGregor was presented with a bouquet of flowers as the audience applauded.

When the girls came forward wearing the medals they’ve won this year around their neck, it sounded like jingle bells.

Coach Cherilynn Paris thanked the BOC for their support, including the air conditioning in the recreation department gym.

“That’s one of the reasons they were able to accomplish what they did,” Paris said. “We worked through the summer and we just dared them to say they’re cold.

We have one of the smallest schools around, but I consider the fact that dynamite comes in small packages, and they’ve proven that this year,” she continued. “We’re extremely proud of these girls. They work hard four days a week.”

The 2021 AAU State Championships were held in April at Roswell Gymnastics. Bringing home state titles in their individual divisions and events were:

♦ Lana Worsham — Beam, Floor

♦ Raylynne Allen — Vault, Beam

♦ Emaleigh Deems — Beam, Floor

♦ Kaylee Smallwood — Vault

♦ Raelyn Embry — Beam, Floor

♦ Tristian Baker — Beam

♦ Elle Smith — Vault

The 2021 AAU National Championships were held in June in Savannah. Paris said the girls competed against 2,800 girls from across the country. Bringing home national titles were:

♦ Raylynne Allen — Bars

♦ Lana Worsham — Beam, Floor

♦ Ava Grace Rustin — Beam

♦ Mariyah Wilhite — Vault, Beam

♦ Isabella Tanner — Beam

♦ Tristian Baker — Vault

Paris and BOC chair Joe Brown also gave out a special award.

“One of our girls at Nationals won the All American Award,” Paris said. “No one knew who had won until after Nationals and they sent us the award and apologized because they forgot to give it out there. The All American Award is in their session, no matter what age they competed against or how many medals they had in each event, they had the highest all around score of anyone. That is really hard to do. Raylynne Allen won the award.”

Brown congratulated the girls on their accomplishments as the audience gave them a standing ovation.

“This is something that is unheard of in Butts County,” Brown said.

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Senior Reporter

I have worked for community newspapers in Butts, Henry, Newton, Rockdale, and Upson counties for 30 years. I was Editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus from 1993-1999, and returned to the Progress-Argus as Senior Reporter in 2019.

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