BROOKINGS — The Spearfish Gymnastics Academy Optional Team recently travelled across the state to open their competitive season at the Hula Fest, hosted by Gold Medal Gymnastics, in Brookings.
“This is always an interesting meet for us,” said Phil Summers, SGA head coach. “We kind of se it as a guiding point of where we are at and where it is we need to go to have a successful season. It was the very first optional meet for our brand new Level 6 team and both Lexie Cathcart, SGA assistant coach, and I were very pleased with the performances of these young gymnasts.”
The Level 6 team started the meet with a good showing on the floor exercise with a second place finish from Liliana Swisher with a score of 9.075 and Mia Bush taking third with a 9.0 in the 8 to 10-year-old age group.
Kyra Vandenberg added a fourth place finish, in the 11-12 age group, with a score of 8.85.
The young squad then went onto the vault competition.
“This event was a huge step for this group. Last year they all competed a simple handspring vault. Some of them over the vaulting horse and some of them simply landing on their backs on a port a pit mat. That was dependant on what Level they were competing at the time,” said Summers. “This season they are all performing a round off back handspring over the Vaulting horse, which is the progression for all the flipping vaults that you normally see. It takes a lot of courage to fir down the runway and do this skill over a non moveable object that is taller than you are.
Summers said he was very impressed with how well this group handled that upgrade at such an early stage of their overall development.
Again, Swisher was the top finisher in the vault, for SGA, with a score of 8.825, for third place and Bush garnered a fourth place medal with a score of 8.525.
The Uneven Bars was the next event in the lineup, and this is where the young team really started to shine.
Bush took the gold medal for first place with a score of 9.1, and Edyn Citrowske added another gold, in the 11 to 12-year-old age group, with a score of 8.95.
“The Bars is the hardest transition for more gymnasts. You move from performing a simple routine on the low bar only, then to a intermediate type of routine that involves jumping to the high bar at the next level. However at Level 6 you not only have to move from bar to bar you also have to be able to cast to a handstand on the high bar and perform a flipping dismount off the bars.,” said Summers. “Out of the six gymnasts, all of them new to this level, we had three gymnasts actually make their handstand on the high bar, so that was great. The other three all did respectable routines just casting above horizontal with good form. What it did show is the potential this team has to be great bar workers by the end of the season.”
Where the Level 6 team really came into their own, however, was on the balance beam.
“Beam is a tough event to finish on,” said Cathcart. “After all the excitement and fun of the other 3 events, you then have to calm down and really focus to do a great beam routine and these kids did that with flying colors.”
The rotation started out with Avery Cole, who just rocked her beam for a score of 9.45 for a third place finish.
But the best was yet to come.
Teammate Brooklyn Moser followed with a second place finish also with a score of 9.45.
“The tie is broken by the higher all around score,” Cathcart said.
Then Mia Bush really put on a show.
She posted the highest beam score of the entire meet on this event, easily taking the Gold Medal with a spectacular score of 9.6.
These young ladies not only went 1,2,3 on the beam, but as a team they posted the highest beam tally of the day with a team score of 28.50.
Teammate Edyn Citrowske added a third place finish, in her age group with a score of 9.125, and Kyra Vandenberg finished in fourth with that same score of 9.125.
Bush added to her medal collection winning the silver in the all around with a total of 36.225, and Ctrowkse finished fourth with a score of 34.675, while Vandenberg’s score of 34.45 placed her in sixth. Finishing just out of the medals in the all around were Swisher (35.425), Moser (35.150) and Coyle (34.775).
Summers said the team score is tabulated by counting the top 3 scores from each event.
The SGA Squad finished second overall with a score of 107.825.
“We were very excited about how this young team performed in Brookings,” said Cathcart. “You just never know what to expect in that first meet of the season. They all had fun, performed some stellar routines, and posted 36 routines throughout the meet with no falls. You can’t help but be Happy with that.”
The Level 7, 8 and 10 competitors also had the opportunity to get their season underway in Brookings. At Level 7, Marla Sproul performed one of the best beam routines and ended up winning the Silver Medal with a score of 9.2.
Kathleen Cook competed as a level 8 for Spearfish.
She started out with a little hiccup on her floor routine in the first rotation, and then came back strong on the next three events.
Cook took the silver medal on the bars (9.375), added another silver on the vault (9.45), won gold on the balance beam (9.55), and finished second in the all around with a total of 36.875.
“Not a bad beginning at all. She has a solid opportunity this year to score a mid 37.00 or even a 38.00 in the All Around. It will be fun to see where she goes this season,” Summers said.
At Level 10, SGA was represented by Ruthie Wehrung and Savanna Dunwoody.
The difficulty for these two is their age,” said Coach Summers. “Especially in South Dakota, as they are very young to have reached this high of a level in gymnastics, so that have to compete with gymnasts that are four to five years older than they are.”
Summers said the two young protege’s still had a pretty outstanding day for the first meet of the year. “Dunwoody has been struggling with some soreness in her achilles, said Summers, so she did not compete floor in this meet. However she competed Beam with a lot more confidence than I have seen in the past and despite a couple of fall she still looked good on this event,” Summers said.
Dunwoody went on to outshine the rest of the field on the Vault, winning the Gold with a score of 9.5 and taking the gold on the Bars (8.9).
Wehrung added a gold medal on the floor exercise with a score of 9.05, and finished third on vault (9.1) and beam (9.175).
Wehrung’s all around total scoreof 35.525 gave her the silver medal.
“Ruthie really had a good meet,” said Summers. “She started out on Floor and performed 2 Double backs in her routine. That was a first for her and a real statement of her courage and stamina. She also performed a brand new vault and added a huge double layout dismount on bars and a new flight series on the beam. I was very proud of both Dunwoody and Wehrung. They are way ahead of where they started last season and their future looks very good.”
The Spearfish compulsory gymnasts will be back in action on Dec. 21-22 when they travel to Mitchel South Dakota and the optional gymnasts will be training hard over the Christmas holiday as the prepare for Wild West Gymnastics Invitational, which will once again be held at the Rushmore Civic Center on Jan. 4 and 5.
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