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Doug Wolter: Hey, Spencer can do that!

Spencer Erwin, like a lot of second-grade boys, has energy to burn. His mother, Laurie, explains, "He's always been kind of a daredevil." Spencer was popping wheelies on his bicycle almost the moment he got his training wheels off. He likes to ru...

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Tim Middagh/Daily Globe Spencer Erwin, the only boy in the Worthington youth gymnastics program, poses proudly in his leotard while the WHS girls team practices at the armory building.

Spencer Erwin, like a lot of second-grade boys, has energy to burn.

His mother, Laurie, explains, “He’s always been kind of a daredevil.”

Spencer was popping wheelies on his bicycle almost the moment he got his training wheels off. He likes to run, to jump, to flip -- all that stuff.

“He’s the kind of kid who always was interested in being upside-down. He likes handstands and all that,” said his mom.

That may explain, to some degree at least, how Spencer became a member of the SWAGS youth gymnastics program in Worthington, the hugely successful collection of young jumpers and tumblers that has developed into an essential feeder program for the hugely successful Worthington High School girls gym team. SWAGS not only produces high-end gymnasts to the high school program; it’s just downright fun.

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And Spencer -- the only boy in a program that contains 36 girls -- is a courageous pioneer. When I asked Laurie, by phone, this week whether Spencer had ever been teased for being the only boy in a girl-dominated outfit, I overheard her pass the question on to her son -- who was standing next to her at the time.

I heard him answer swiftly and assuredly, “Some boys. But I don’t care!”

God bless him.

There was a time, believe it or not, when boys gymnastics was a high school event. Those days are long gone, but it’s nice to know at least one energetic Worthington male believes organized Tarzan imitations don’t have to completely go out of style.

Spencer has a twin brother, Michael, who competes in wrestling. Spencer enjoys wrestling, too, but after thoughtful consideration he decided about a year and a half ago to make gymnastics his thing. Laurie says it’s working out really well for both boys -- Michael is a natural in wrestling and Spencer is more naturally inclined to gymnastics.

His first gym class was in October of 2015.

“He took a couple of classes in wrestling, but he was already interested in gymnastics,” Laurie recalls.

When Spencer witnessed his first gymnastics class, he saw that it was all girls and he didn’t like it. But Laurie convinced him to stay and watch for a while, and she remembers him remarking, “Hey, I can do that!”

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The rest is history. Laurie has helped with Spencer’s gym moves since the beginning. She taught him how to do handstands, pushups, and then added more maneuvers.

“My living room is kind of like the gymnasium,” she said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Spencer arrived at the local armory during a high school team practice session, and while the Trojan girls smiled endearingly at Spencer while fine-tuning their own routines, a Daily Globe photographer snapped a few photographs of him to accompany this column. It was arranged that Spencer could show this writer and the photographer some of his moves on the springy blue mat the Trojans use for their floor exercise event.

He made three passes from one corner to the opposite corner, turning cartwheels and flips all along the way. I was impressed. I applauded as I congratulated Spencer for his progress.

He not only loves gymnastics (his mother says he’s headlong into Pokemon cards, too), but he’s also very good at it. I think if boys high school gymnastics ever came back, Spencer could be a star.

Related Topics: GYMNASTICS
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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