Local gymnast wins Junior Olympic title
4 Steamboat Springs girls compete in meet
December 8, 2009
Steamboat Springs — Before this weekend's USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic meet at Loveland High School, one of Maggie McElhiney's coaches told her she needed to show a little more confidence.
She apparently was listening.
Confidence is no longer a problem for the 13-year-old gymnast from Excel Gymnastics of Steamboat. She finished first in the beam, floor and bars routines en route to the all-round title in the 13-year-old division at the Level 5 championships. She also picked up a third-place finish in the vault.
"I knew I wanted to finish in the top 10 — that was my goal," Maggie said about her first trip to the state championships. "I didn't know how good the other gymnasts were going to be, but I listened to my coaches and just competed like it was any other event."
After winning the beam and floor events during the first two rotations, Maggie's confidence grew. Not even a slight bobble in the vault would keep her from the title.
"I knew I had to step up my game if I wanted to win the all-round," she said. "Lucky for me, my final event was on the bars."
Maggie said the bars are her favorite event, and she proved it by dominating with a score of 9.6 (her highest score of the day) to finish with a combined total of 37.55. Her combined score was more than a point ahead of the next closest competitor in her division.
"That's huge in gymnastics," Excel Gymnastics owner Mike Smith said. "This was a great showing for our programs, and a great showing for Steamboat Springs."
Four Steamboat gymnasts competed at the meet. The other three were Julia Gibbs, Taylor Rogers and Emily Groves.
In gymnastics, athletes are placed in classifications ranging from Level 1 (beginners) to Level 10. There also are junior elite and senior elite divisions for athletes with national team aspirations.
The Level 5 Junior Olympic championships drew 350 competitors from across the state representing nearly 40 teams.
This weekend, Steamboat will send two athletes, Taylor Wiese and Alyssa Groves, to the Level 4 championship event at the Denver Convention Center.
The Level 5 girls competed in six meets this season, with four of the five members achieving state-qualifying scores. In addition to the Labor Day Meet at Excel Gymnastics, the girls also competed at Sundance Gymnastics in Monument; Aspen Gymnastics; Gymnastics Unlimited in Northglenn; GK Gymnastics in Fort Collins; and CATS Gymnastics in Boulder.
Other top finishers at the Level 5 event included 9-year-old Julia Gibbs, who placed 11th overall. She was sixth in the vault (8.8), seventh in the floor (9.1), ninth in the bars (9.15) and 13th in the beam (8.75). Without her fall on the beam, Julia's coaches think she would have finished as high as fifth in the overall.
Taylor Rogers was 16th in the overall thanks to an eighth in the floor, a 14th in the bars, and fourth in the beam. Emily Groves was tied for 18th in the all-round standings. She was 16th in the beam, 18th in the bars, 19th in the vault and 24th in the floor.
Head coach Steve Murray said this was a big event for the local program, which is made up of 18 girls and growing.
"I'm very, very happy with the way our girls performed at the meet," Murray said. "This was a step forward for the programs and a great showing for Maggie and the other girls on the team."