The Ferris brothers from Austintown eye national meet
AUSTINTOWN -- A rigorous physical routine lasting 31/2 hours a day, five days a week, where you run, jump, hang from rings, do front flips, back flips, numerous twists and just plain stretch your body out are some of the things gymnasts do in the pursuit of excellence.
Ronnie Ferris, who will be 18-years-old on April 16, and his brother David, 16, are students at Fitch High School, and they are trained and coached by their father Ron, proprietor-owner of the Ohio Gymnastic Institute on Mahoning Avenue.
A senior, Ronnie recently competed in the 2002 Ohio Boys USA Gymnastics Junior Elite I (16-19-years old) state championships at the Fitch High gymnasium.
Ronnie and David, who competes in Junior Elite II (14-15-year old) class, perform on floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vaulting, parallel bars and horizontal bars.
Near sweep: Ronnie won every event except parallel bars, where he placed third, and his first-place all-round total was 54.10 points. David placed seventh all-around with 41.20 points.
Their goal was to advance to the regionals in Michigan, and both of them made it. Now they will try for the nationals at San Diego, Calif., in May.
Ranked 12th in the nation, Ronnie began his career when he was 18-months-old, taking classes where he climbed over ladders, rolled down hills and jumped on a trampoline. He started competing in gymnastics meets when he was 6-years-old.
Last year he qualified for the USA championship at Philadelphia, Pa., and placed ninth all-around as a Junior Elite I competitor.
After participating in California, Pa., Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Nevada meets, he was recruited by and received paid trips to Penn State, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio State.
He qualified for the 2000 Championships of the USA in St. Louis, Mo., making Ronnie the first ever Youngstown-area athlete to qualify for the event, and he placed 10th all-around in Junior Elite II.
Swept AAU honors: He went on to win the all-around (16-19) AAU Junior Olympic national championship in Orlando, Fla., becoming the first athlete in AAU history to win all-around laurels in every age division.
"Horizontal bars is one of my better events," said Ronnie. "You just have to hold on where you are. It takes a lot of practice to put your hands on each skill. The tougher the move is, risk of falling, the better the score.
"You hope you don't get your hands in the wrong place and fall off the bar."
Recent heart surgery: Ronnie recently underwent heart surgery at Cleveland Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.
Diagnosed with a severe case of Tachycardia (uncontrollable racing heart rate caused by abnormal nerve impulses to the heart), Ronnie was under observation since last November.
During a competition last February in Las Vegas, his heart rate was measured at over 280 beats per minute.
Ronnie had been given a device to measure the condition (which can't be predicted and, even though he had two other episodes between November and February, the Las Vegas episode was the only one which could be measured accurately) and after his pommel horse performance he was able to get a good measurement.
Once the doctors had seen the results of the episode, Ronnie was rushed into surgery in Cleveland and the Ablasion procedure took over five hours and was a complete success.
So much so that the doctors gave Ronnie permission to compete in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Gymnastics Challenge in Columbus the following weekend.
He competed in only three events and qualified to the finals on all three and placed first on pommel horse, second on horizontal bar and eight on vaulting.
Junior competition: David, who competes in Junior Elite II, said, "I started competing when I was 7-years-old. I have been in it my whole life and I enjoy it. It's like now you can do stuff that nobody else can do.
"My goal each time out is to do the events clean and not make any mistakes.
"Last year and again this year I have been getting better and it's because I have been trying a lot harder with the idea of making the nationals.
"Floor exercise and rings are what I place best in and they are the ones I feel most relaxed and confident in doing," said David.
Talking about his performance in floor exercise at the state meet, David said, "I didn't fall and that was good."
"My front full-front punch and Rudi punch [both difficult skills] are major flips and I am confident in doing them."
Each day, they practice 31/2 hours on three events. Ronnie works out alone in the morning and the two of them practice together in the afternoon.
They spend 45 minutes to an hour on each event and David said, "Repetition, repetition, repetition accounts for improvement."
"We help each other with different skills and we make fun of each other when we make errors," said Ronnie.
Parents support: The boys' parents, both gymnasts when they were younger, are very supportive.
Mrs. [Cheryl] Ferris said, "I think they do well, even when they don't."
David, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average, has been named to the National Gymnastics All-American Academic team for the second year in a row.
A gymnast must carry a 3.85 GPA or higher to make the academic squad.
"As a father I couldn't be more proud of them," said Ron Ferris. "They stay out of trouble and do well in school.
"Hopefully they fulfill their destiny and make good contributions to society."

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