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Local gymnastics troupe competes this month

Team trains at Gymnastics Unlimited in Valencia

Posted: November 6, 2008 10:14 p.m.
Updated: November 7, 2008 4:55 a.m.
Members of the Pikes competitive gymnastics team will take part in various meets during November. Members of the Pikes competitive gymnastics team will take part in various meets during November.
Members of the Pikes competitive gymnastics team will take part in various meets during November.
Nearly two dozen members of the local Pikes competitive gymnastics team have qualified to compete in the state gymnastics meet after posting outstanding scores in the Southern California Sectionals meet in Ventura on Oct. 25-26.

The girls, who train at Gymnastics Unlimited in Valencia, will each compete in one of three state meets to be held later this month. The Pikes range in age from 6-15.

Pikes head coach Vanessa Atler said the girls' performance exceeded the coaching staff's expectations, especially considering the fact that this is the first competitive season for many of the girls.

"They were excited, and they used their excitement to their advantage," said Atler, a former U.S. national champion. "Overall, my one word that I would use for this was just ‘surprised.' All of them blew the coaches' socks off."

Atler said the Pikes' overall performance was outstanding, and that includes the few team members whose scores didn't quite qualify them for the state meets. "The parents and all of us were very proud of them.
They all had a good showing."

The state meet is split into three events based on the participants' levels of competition. The Level 4 girls who qualified for states will compete Nov. 22-23 in Bakersfield at the American Kids Sports Center.

The Level 5 state meet is Nov. 15-16 at Rancho Susana Community Center in Simi Valley, and Level 6 is scheduled this weekend (Nov. 8-9) at Cal Poly Pomona-Kellogg Gym.

The Pikes' many highlights in the sectional meet included:
- Level 4 gymnasts Veronica Thompson and Kayleen Gordon each surpassed a combined score of 35 on all four events for the first time (floor, vault, beam and bars).

- Samantha Little, the top Level 6 scorer with a 35.075, needed a 9.2 or better on her final event to surpass the 35-point mark. "She did an unbelievable floor routine and got a 9.225," Atler said. "It was a really cool moment."

- Level 4 gymnast Marisa Heyer was the highest-scoring member of the Pikes with a 36.075, which earned her a prestigious Platinum Award and placed her in the top 10 percent of more than 350 competing gymnasts.

- Level 5 gymnast Emilee Green took first place on vault with a 9.125.
- Cameron Burns was the top scorer in Level 5 with a 35, turning in a gutsy performance reminiscent of Kerri Strug's in the 1996 Olympics: "She was on the balance beam, and she has a beautiful balance beam routine, and she had a huge wobble - but she held it," Atler said.

This endeared Burns to the crowd, who then took special notice when she rolled her ankle during her floor routine, causing her a significant amount of pain. "She iced it, and went to the vault," Atler said.
Burns proceeded to not only execute her vault despite the injury, but she also turned in a first-place vault.
"She pushed through it," Atler said. "It was a really cool competition for her, and you could even tell the audience recognized her - they all saw her roll her ankle and they were all clapping for her."

Moments like those led to the following girls qualifying to represent the Pikes in the state meets:
- Level 4: Marisa Heyer, McKenna Morrell, Veronica Thompson, Kassandra Dobson, Dakotah Bryan, Daylia Wallace, Chloe Spencer, Kayleen Gordon, Jennifer Ahlberg, Amber Racina, Stephanie Probert, Kaitlyn Berry, Shalini Quattlebaum, Isabella Lahmidi, Lindsay Hunter and Carolina Thompson.

- Level 5: Cameron Burns, Sophia Lahmidi, Emilee Green and Lauren Quick.

- Level 6: Samantha Little and Amanda Idomoto.

Atler added that all of the girls took their performances to new levels. "Sectionals is a really hard
competition - they usually judge harder," she said. "The girls stepped up to the plate. They really used their excitement and nervousness and used it to their advantage, which is a very mature thing to do."


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