This past weekend’s Level 9/10 Junior Olympic Regional Championships contained hundreds of high-level gymnasts from six different states, each battling for a spot at the 2017 J.O. National Championships. The top seven all-around finishers from each age group qualified to represent Region 7 at Nationals. Because of their stellar routines, skills and scores, more than half of the North Stars gymnasts at Regionals this year earned the opportunity to compete at Nationals.
The Regional Championships were held at the PG Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, MD, from April 6-10. The Level 10’s competed on Thursday and Friday, while the Level 9’s competed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each gymnastics club at Regionals was from one of the six states that make up Region 7 including Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania. This year, 717 athletes competed in the meet.
Eleven Level 9 gymnasts from North Stars competed at Regionals and gave powerhouse performances. In turn, some were named Regional Champions on one or more event. Gianna St. Louis placed first on bars, scoring a 9.700. Sisters, Emma and Hannah Loyim, tied for first place on bars in another age group, while Hannah also placed first on floor. Emily Castiglia and Isabel Lin placed first in the all-around for their age group. By the end of the weekend, eight Level 9 gymnasts from North Stars qualified to compete at the J.O. Eastern National Championships. These gymnasts were Hannah Loyim, Emma Loyim, Emily Castiglia, Delaney Sniffen, Raine Smith, Isabel Lin, Alyssa Dillon and Madison Vitolo.
As for the Level 10’s from North Stars, Regionals marked one of their most successful meets as a team to date. Sixteen out of the twenty-one competing gymnasts qualified for J.O. Nationals, allowing North Stars to have more Level 10 National qualifiers than any other gymnastics club in the nation for 2017.
Among the qualifiers was high school senior, Rachel Kaplan. Recovering from an injury and lacking her usual pre-meet training, the pressure was high for Kaplan as she entered the meet. Kaplan fell on beam, her third event in the meet, but relied on the support from her coaches and teammates, as well as the hours she put into training, to finish the meet strong. She needed a solid routine and high score on floor to still have a chance at making it to Nationals.
“I was a lot more nervous than usual,” said Kaplan, “but all the numbers in the gym paid off in that moment because I went out there, did the best I could and it happened to be 0.25 tenths of a point good enough.” She earned a 9.525, her highest score of the meet and enough to push her into seventh place in the all-around. “It was a really good feeling knowing I had done the best I could have when I really needed to,” said Kaplan.
Another Level 10 qualifier from North Stars was Sami Davis. Due to an injury, Regionals was the first meet she competed all-around in since November. “I was so grateful that I was able to perform well on every event,” said Davis, “It was also awesome that my two other teammates and I placed first, second and third. It was a North Stars sweep!”
Davis explained how the coaches and specialists at North Stars play a role in the gymnasts’ success. “Each coach brings out the best in us and helps us to become the best gymnasts we can be. Our two amazing doctors, Dr. Marla Raneiri and Dr. Christine Foss, are a huge part of our success as well,” she said. “The combination of our assignments in the gym and the entire staff builds our confidence and allows us to be so successful,” Davis added.
The complete list of Level 10 J.O. National qualifiers from North Stars includes Simone Banen, Kaylee Quinn, Ava Caravela, Nicola (Nikki) St. Louis, Emma Itoh, Tiara DeTommaso, Rachael Lukacs, Alonza Klopfer, Ellen (Ellie) Wylie, Yolanda Nodarse, Danielle Liska, Rachel Kaplan, Olivia Orlando, Olivia Raymond, Samantha (Sami) Davis and Sophia Restaino.
Many of these athletes also placed first on one or more event for their age group. Itoh placed first on beam, while Klopfer and Orlando both placed first on floor. Quinn placed first on beam and floor. Lukacs was named vault, floor and all-around champion. Banen was named bars and all-around champion. Davis was vault, beam, floor and all-around champion.
“I am beyond excited for Nationals!” said Davis. We are all extremely motivated and can’t wait to go to Indy together. Having 15 of my teammates going definitely comforts me too because I know we will all have each other’s backs,” she added. “It will be a National’s to remember!”
The Level 9 J.O. Eastern National Championship will be held April 28-30, 2017, at the Summit Sports and Ice Complex in Lansing, MI. The Level 10 J.O. National Championship will be held May 6-7, 2017, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN.