Gymkana Members Fly High for 10 Minutes Straight at Annual Fundraiser
Photos by Nathan LeBauer
A team of Terps will take fundraising fun to new heights this weekend—with the help of spirit, stamina and some strong stomachs.
Gymkana, an acrobatics and gymnastics troupe based in the School of Public Health that promotes active, drug-free lifestyles, will spring into the spotlight during its 16th annual Flip-A-Thon at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the SPH Building. Current members, teaming up with alums this year, will line up and take to the tumbling trampoline to see how many successive flips they can complete in 10 minutes.
The event, which will also be broadcast live on Facebook and Instagram, is free, but fans can donate all month long to help the self-supported group fund training, purchase equipment and further its outreach.
“It’s dizzying,” said Gymkana Assistant Director Ben Prescott, who helped start the event as a student in 2006. “The cardio—I just remember being winded by the end of it. It’s certainly an endurance event.”
Gymkana, which since 1946 has been performing for audiences from UMD to the USO to “America’s Got Talent,” initially took inspiration for the event from similarly active fundraisers, like Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart. The spectacle has evolved over the years, and fans this weekend will not only be treated to hundreds of rapid-fire flips, but also a sneak peek of the other acts the troupe has in store this season.
Gear up for the high-flying event with some flip facts and figures:
Debut flip total: 638
The troupe spun an impressive number in the inaugural Flip-A-Thon, which until this year featured two 10-minute bouts. Today’s smaller team of around 25 will instead hit the gym in one action-packed segment.
By 2019, the Terps had nearly doubled their initial acrobatic output, with current members and alums going head to head in a friendly competition to produce the troupe’s highest flip total to date. (The alums proved they still had spring in their steps, defeating the youngsters.) “We learned what flips are quicker and take less time,” said Josh Montfort, director and head coach. The experience and practice also helped get troupers accustomed to the constant loop-de-loops.
Sorts of somersaults allowed: Anything goes
Part of that efficiency increase included utilizing double-flips, which count as two. But whatever keeps the line moving—standard front flips, twisters, Baranis—will work, said Treasurer Sophia Marchionini ’25.
Think tallying hundreds of flips sounds almost as dizzying as the flips themselves? Gymkana equips three counters with clickers, then takes the average as the official total. They tend to be consistent, Prescott said, typically coming within one to two flips of each other.
Money raised last year: $21,045
The 2021 event, with fundraising hosted on LaunchUMD for the first time, soared past its $15,000 goal. The troupe hopes to keep the giving going with a $16,000 goal this year, and donations of $300 will be recognized with a plaque at the Gymkana training facility.
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