Steamboat Springs Katie Birch, Chelsea Mosser and Maggie Faulkner all admitted they were surprised to qualify for the upcoming state gymnastics meet.
But now that they are going, the next couple of weeks will be spent perfecting smiles, toe-points, presentation and, of course, their routines.
The three qualified as Level 5 gymnasts and will compete against girls from around Colorado on Dec. 7 in Colorado Springs.
Only several gymnasts in Steamboat Springs history had ever qualified for the state meet at this level. Birch, Mosser and Faulkner recently doubled the numbers.
"They are breaking new ground," coach Deirdre Bernard said. "They understand the history and they understand they did something that hasn't been done much before in Steamboat."
Bernard is instructing young Steamboat gymnasts after spending several years working with athletes in Texas at the collegiate and private levels. She said the difference between coaching in Texas' large gyms and the center in Steamboat is the personal contact and relationships she has developed with her athletes.
"At bigger gyms, you don't get to see the girls progress through every level," Bernard said. "I've watched them go from learning handstands to doing layouts."
Birch, Mosser and Faulkner are three members of this bunch. Both Birch and Mosser competed in the 12-and-older division at the recent sectional meet in Grand Junction. Mosser received an all-around score of 34.65, placing seventh out of 36 competitors. Birch scored a 33.775, finishing 16 in the same all-around field.
Faulkner competed in the 10-11 age division, scoring a 34.525 in the all-around and finishing 20th in a field consisting of 70 Level 5 gymnasts.
"They did really well," Bernard said. "I'm really proud of them all."
Qualifying for the state meet is an important part of the maturation process for a young gymnast, Bernard said. It is a major consideration for whether she moves an athlete up to the next competitive level, which is the ultimate goal for a gymnast. Currently, there are Level 6 and 7 gymnasts training in the Steamboat Gymnastics Academy.
The coaching stability Bernard has provided has helped propel the competitive program in Steamboat forward.
Currently, she has 13 gymnasts on the Steamboat Stars team, which consists of competitors at Levels 5, 6 and 7, but there are about 350 kids ages 5 to 13 in the youth program.
The Level 5 team of Birch, Mosser, Faulkner, Jena Pruett and Athena Fowler has fared well for the Steamboat center. Since August, the team has won two teams awards, taking third at the Gymnastics Unlimited meet in Denver and fourth at the Grand Junction Qualifying meet.
"I attribute the girls' incredible progress to the sweat and dedication of each individual gymnast, to the support of their families and to the wise and patient leadership of Dan and Rose Atkins, who own and operate Steamboat Gymnastics," Bernard said. "It should not surprise anyone to see Steamboat represented at the state meet."
Brandi Robbins and Sarah Call serve as Bernard's assistant coaches, and all three will be teaching the upcoming winter session that starts Jan. 6. For more information or to register a child, parents or guardians are encouraged to call the center at 879-1624.
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