The Duncan Banner

May 20, 2013

Gymnast coach Rucker receives special surprise

Evan Grice
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — It’s been said “If you love what you do, then you’ll never work a day in your life.”

For Janet Rucker, she’ll tell you she’s been having fun for more than 30 years teaching young women across Stephens County the sport of gymnastics at Ruckers Gymnasium in Duncan.

This past Saturday at the 2013 Ruckers Gymnastics Spring Program, current and former students along with coaches decided to give a little something back to their beloved friend, and mentor in Janet Rucker.

Following the conclusion of the program, Rucker was surprised to see a line of students form all giving her a rose in appreciation for all of her work and guidance, a moment which brought her to tears of joy.

“This has been an amazing journey for me,” Rucker said. “It’s been an avenue for me in which the Lord has allowed me to bless these kids and they have blessed me right back. Each one of those girls has a story and some great memories. They’ll never know what it meant to me seeing each one of them.”

Janet Rucker moved to the the north side of Oklahoma City in 1956, after being born in Kansas City, MO.  

It was in fourth grade where she was first noticed by a physical education teacher named Mary Wooline at Ridegeview Elementary, who discovered Rucker’s talent in gymnastics.

Before she knew it, Rucker was apart of The All-Arounds gymnastics team, which was coached by Olympian Janie Sparks.

During her teen years, Rucker represented a five-state region at the Junior Olympics in Nashville, before qualifying in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas in various meets, all the while being apart of the Oklahoma City Twisters gymnastics team.

Following her graduation from John Marshall High School, Rucker was offered a scholarship at OU, and eventually married her husband Charles two years into college.

For more than 26 years, Ruckers Gymnasium has been at its current location at Elk and Fifth, where young women have blossomed into greatness as gymnasts and people ever since.

Before they were known as the Dyna-Flites, Rucker’s Gymnastics team was called the Southwest Benders.

In 1988, the Dyna-Flites captured the level four state championship, including competing at an international meet, along with collecting several all-around champions.

“Janet was a gymnast as well, and has touched so many people’s lives,” Rucker’s gymnastics coach Lisa Martin said. “She always says that coaches plant seeds in children and that she’s planted an orchard. The kids make the job, and it shows in Janet’s work. I remember when I was little and she tumbled for us, and she’s always had a positive and loving environment in this gym.”

Among the former students who were present to show their appreciation for Rucker, were Shalyn Files and Kylee Saville, Jenny Simpson, Britton Scott, Allison Wilcox, Abby Dressler and Kaitlyn Wright.

“From day one of gymnastics until my last day, Janet was always loving and encouraging to me and everyone else who has come through this gym,” Files said. “She’s an outstanding woman and I consider her family. It was unbelievable to give Janet that split second of appreciation, it made everything so special.”

Saville added she still holds the time she spent at Rucker’s Gymnasium extremely special.

“Janet taught me everything I know, and has been like a mother to us,” she said. “She’s just a nice Christian lady who gave up all her time to spend it in a gym full of girls. This is where we grew up and it feels like we’re home here.”