Originally created 07/27/06

Bringing home the gold



Britney Gross recently added five medals to the more than 70 she has on display in her bedroom.

The 10-year-old gymnast, who competed in the AAU National Championships which ended earlier this month, won gold for vault, beam, and all-around, and silver for the uneven bars and floor exercise.

She said she wants to compete in gymnastics "until I can't do it anymore," and then wants to become a coach.

Gross was one of 11 Gymnastics Gold girls, ages 6 to 11, to compete at the national competition in Rochester, Minn. Eight brought home medals in the best all-around division: five for first, three for second, and one for third place.

Coach Denise Jessen said that last year, five local girls won gold on several different events.

"But this year, we were just on our game," she said. "We were just right on time."

Sydney Robinson, 9, another Gymnastics Gold member, said she was nervous the whole time she was competing, but she won gold for beam, floor and all-around, and silver for vault and bars.

Jessen said the girls are broken into classes based on age and skill level. This way, gymnasts are not unequally paired.

Many of the girls began taking classes at Gymnastics Gold in Martinez between 2 and 5 years old. As their talent became apparent, they were invited to compete as part of the Gymnastics Gold team, where they began competing in invitational, state and national competitions.

The girls joined 43 others from around the state to make up Team Georgia at the national event.

This year's national competition was a little tough, Jessen said, because going into it they weren't sure what they were up against.

Many of the 800 girls competing at the competition were from northern states, because the cost of travel (which, at least in Georgia, is absorbed by the girls' parents) is lesser for competitions that are closer to home.

When nationals are held in Orlando, Fla., for example, Jessen expects the number of competitors from Georgia to more than double.

For Team Georgia, traveling all the way to Minnesota might have made most of them try harder.

Jensen proudly related something one of her 7-year-olds told her: "You know why I did so good? Because we came all this way."

Jessen said that though her girls had seen other youngsters from Georgia compete at other tournaments, they hadn't really had an opportunity to bond with kids from other cities until this meet.

She said coaches from all of the Georgia gyms sat their girls down and explained that they were going as Team Georgia, and they were to support each other.

Some girls, she explained, might not have any of her usual team members with her.

Team Georgia took the talk to heart, and the camaraderie between team members and amongst the coaches were noticed by everyone, Jessen said.

As an example, she related an instance where a girl from the Iowa team came up to one of her girls and said, "I want to be from Georgia."

Asked why, the girl answered, "Because Georgia rocks!"

Reach Lisa Kaylor at lisa.kaylor@augustachronicle.com.

ALL-AROUND EXCELLENCE


Name..........Age..........Level


Abigayle Kelley,..........6..........2


Note: Vault (3), bars (2), all-around (4)




Makayla Barfoot..........7..........2


Note: Bars (1), beam (2), floor (3), all-around (1)




Aubrey Reynolds..........6..........2


Note: Vault (2), bars (1), beam (3), floor

(1), all-around (1)




Bree Sarver..........8..........2


Note: Vault (2), bars (4), beam (2), floor (2), all-around (2)




Tristin Davis..........9..........3


Note: Vault (1), bars (4), beam (1), floor

(2), all-around (2)




Sydney Robinson..........9..........3


Note: Vault (2), bars (2), beam (1), floor (1), all-around (1)




Anna Johnson..........10..........3


Note: Vault (3), bars (1), beam (4), floor

(1), all-around (1)




Olivia Cherry..........10..........3


Note: Bars (4), vault (4), all-around (7)




Kristine Cherry..........11..........4


Note: Vault (3), beam (2), floor (3),

all-around (3)




Britney Gross..........10..........4


Note: Vault (1), bars (2), beam (1), floor (2), all-around (1)




Merritt Moore,..........10..........Mod. Opt.


Note: Vault (1), bars (4), beam (5), floor

(2), all-around (2)