The Moultrie YMCA MGs optional teams concluded a successful four days in Milwaukee by placing third in the Championship Division and adding a surprisingly strong fourth-place finish in Level 8 at the 2012 YMCA National Gymnastics Championships.
The competitions that attracted 1,700 athletes from 24 states were held at the spacious Frontier Airlines Center.
The parade of states and the opening ceremonies were on the grounds of the city’s annual Summerfest.
Held over two weeks, it is described as the world’s largest music festival.
The opening ceremony was designated as an official Olympic Day event by the United States Olympic Committee and featured a video address to the participants by first lady Michelle Obama and members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team.
It wasn’t the Olympics, but having only three available gymnasts, the MGs Level 9 team experienced the pressure of the “three up, three scores count” format that will be used at the upcoming London Games.
There was no margin for error.
Kenyada Prime, Sterlyn Austin and Aubrea Callanta placed third in the top Championship Division for level 9 and 10 athletes.
They trailed only repeat champion, Hanover, Pa., and multiple past champion, and 2011 runners-up, Lakewood, Wash.
Hanover and Lakewood each had at least six athletes contributing to the top three scores on each event that make up a team’s score on each of the two days of team competition.
A 2012 Lowndes High School honor graduate, Prime ended her final season as the YMCA Senior National Champion on vault, the bronze medalist in the senior all-around competition and YMCA All-American, and as an event finalist in all four disciplines.
On vault, her 9.525 score in finals was enough to move her from second after the first two days to another gold medal on the event.
She is also the 2012 USAG Level 9 Region Vault Champion.
In addition to her vault championship, Prime placed second on beam, third on floor and fourth on bars.
She earned scores above 9.1 on nine of the 12 routines she performed over the three days, and had high scores of 9.525 on vault, 9.5 on floor, 9.225 on bars and 9.225 on beam.
Her all-around total of 73.65 (36.75 and 36.9) was only .35 behind gold medalist, Selena Swanger (level 10) of Hanover. Prime had to count a fall (-.5) on beam the first day and another on bars the second day.
“Kenyadah had a terrific meet,” said Coach Bob Swadel. “This was her first Y Nationals since her freshman year and she held up really well physically, after battling injuries while in Fitzgerald the past three years.
“One mistake cost her the All-Around championship, but she was clearly one of the stars of the meet.”
Sterlyn Austin made the move from level 8 to the Championship Division look relatively easy. The 12-year-old, who lives in Thomasville, placed third all-around in the junior age group (15 and under).
She scored 36.0 on the first day and improved to a 36.65 on the second day. Her 72.65 all-around total earned her the bronze medal and the title of YMCA All-American.
After scoring a 9.05 or better on all but one of her eight routines during the team competition, Austin earned a spot in event finals on every event. Her bar score of 8.7 on the first day went up to a personal best, 9.3 on day two.
She placed sixth on bars and beam and eighth on vault and floor.
Coach Allen Harden said of the young powerhouse, “Sterlyn already has nearly as many very difficult skills as the other top girls. Some form issues that will disappear as she gets older, and the composition of her level 9 routines, cost her some bonus points in finals, where more difficult rules favor the level 10 athletes. We knew that would be the case. She definitely established herself as a crowd favorite and a top talent.”
Nerves caused first-year level 9 Aubrea Callanta to have a first day that tested her confidence, and resulted in a disappointing score of 33.75 all-around.
She regrouped and turned things around on day two, earning season high scores of 8.525 on bars and 8.9 on her new floor routine. Looking focused and determined, she put together a solid 35.00 performance and earned herself a spot in vault finals.
Her vault scores of 8.975 and 8.925 and her 8.925 in finals were good enough to place ninth on the event.
The Lowndes High rising sophomore had a two day all-around total of 68.725 that placed 15th in the junior age group.
“I was very proud of Aubrea. With only three athletes on our team, it was critical that she have a big second day. She really rose to the challenge and was very excited when we were announced as the third place team,” said Swadel.
Meghan Merritt and Haley Trouille were each recovering from a season- ending injuy and were unavailable for the championships.
Both girls are expected to compete next season and should be important contributors for the MGs at the 2013 Y Nationals.
Without the three top scorers from last year, it was going to be quite difficult for the Level 8 team to reach their goal of finishing in the top five just one year after winning the 2012 national title.
The MGs were led by veterans Susannah Harvell (36.2), Sammie Phillips (36.175) and 2011 all-around finalist, Kaydee Phillips (35.225).
When the chalk dust settled they had scored 143.45, only one point less than the 2011 team, and were presented with the fourth place banner.
The Level 8 team champion was Lakewood, Wash., followed by Darien, Conn. and Madison, N.J.
Competing in the first of five sessions, as they had in 2011, Harvell and the Phillips sisters earned top 25 places in their age groups and spots in the Level 8 All-Around Finals.
“Bob (Swadel) and I jokingly refer to that group as our basketball team, because they are each taller than most gymnasts. They stood out this week because they did excellent gymnastics, not because of their height,” said Harden. “They will be in level 9 next season and will provide needed depth for us in the Championship Division at nationals.”
On the first day, Harvell placed first on beam (9.6) and vault (9.275), fifth on bars (8.4) and sixth on floor (8.925). In finals she had scores of 9.375 on vault, 8.15 0n bars, 8.575 on beam and 9.15 on floor.
Her two-day vault total was the highest of all 104 gymnasts in the level 8 senior age group. Harvell’s two-day all around total of 71.70 placed sixth.
Competing in the junior age group, on the first day, Sammie Phillips placed third on vault (9.15), earned her first- ever nine on the event and a 12-place medal on bars (9.05). She placed eleventh on floor (9.00) and scored 8.975 on beam, but did not place.
In finals she used scores of 9.15 on vault, 8.75 on bars, 8.325 on beam and 9.275 on floor to earn an all around score of 35.50, placing 13th with a total score of 71.675 out of 106 gymnasts in the level 8 junior age group.
Kaydee Phillips has been the most consistent scorer for the level 8 team all season.
In the team competition on the first day she hit her average of 35.225. Her 9.025 placed second on vault and her 8.9 was good for third on bars. She added an 8.9 on beam and an 8.4 on floor, but did not place.
She improved her scores on three events in finals and her 36.15 moved her up to seventh all-around (71.375) in the senior age group.
On the second day, she put up scores of 9.2 on vault, 9.025 on bars, 8.825 on beam and 9.1 on floor.
After receiving a critical score on the final beam routine for the national championship team last year, it is not surprising that Evelyn Fagan placed eighth on the event this year with a strong score of 9.4. She added an 8.7 and another eighth place finish on vault.
Her scores of 8.725 on floor and 8.1 on bars did not place in the junior age group. She finished in 32nd place all-around with a total of 34.925.
Savana Robertson made the move to level 8 late in the season and prepared herself well for Nationals.
She had an all-around score of 34.475. Her 8.625 placed ninth on vault and the judges commented that it was the best vault of its type that they had seen all year. She added a solid 9.25 on beam, an 8.75 on floor and a 7.85 on bars, but did not medal on the events.
After battling a virus in the days leading up to the trip to Wisconsin, Jordan Yates did not have the kind of meet she had hoped for.
Like Robertson, it was her first Nationals as a level 8 gymnast. The highlight of the day for Yates was her 8.95 on floor. She added an 8.75 on beam, an 8.4 on vault and a 7.4 on bars.
“The performance by this level 8 team was even better than we, as coaches, expected,” Swadel said. “It was a total team effort. Everyone in the group contributed scores to the team score.
Many had personal bests. The youngsters hit routines when we needed them to, and our older girls led by example. Allen and I are very proud of what they accomplished.”
The 2013 YMCA National Gymnastics Championships will be held at the Convention Center in Savannah.