By Tom Peterson
For The Dalles Chronicle
“Come on Emma,” shouted three girls clad in colorful leotards.
Emma Smith, 13, pulled a back-tuck off the bars and hit the blue mat with a puff of white chalk.
Riverside Gymnastics Academy’s elite are back in action and raring to rip into the meat of their season.
“It feels like all the hard work is starting to pay off,” said Krissy Carter, 14. “It makes me want to get better.”
Carter, Poppy Miller, Hannah Caracciolo and Celia Peterson amassed a 108.68 team score at the Pacific Edge Invitational in Newport on Jan. 30. They took home a first-place trophy.
“It was really cool,” said Miller. “Umpqua had six gymnasts, and we only had four.”
Even though Umpqua had two more athletes from which to gain a scoring advantage, Riverside’s four amassed a point advantage in the four events: vault, bars, beam and floor.
All Riverside optional teams have tasted success early with either first- or second-place finishes in their first three meets.
That’s not bad for a rebuilding year.
“More of our girls have moved up a level this season than ever before,” said Coach Candy Smith. “It is incredible that we have so many girls who have accomplished moving up a level this season.”
Twelve gymnasts are tumbling in a new level this year, creating a big learning curve.
“It’s a challenging season,” said Coach Mike Smith. “So many of our levels are full of new kids. Consequently, a lot of them are starting from scratch and working their way up. It’s good. We want kids to start a new level. It’s a sign of a healthy program.”
“It’s fun,” said 11-year-old Zoe Dunn. “We get to work up our own routines.” Dunn said her flour routine is choreographed to The Rolling Stone’s “Paint It Black.”
There are five optional levels, 6-10. Optional level gymnasts create their own routines, where the compulsory levels, 1-5, have set routines that every gymnast is required to complete.
Each level is more difficult than the level before it, with more difficult requirements. It usually takes girls two to three years to score out of a level and master the difficulty in the next level, said Candy Smith.
Ashley Quisenberry, 12, said her coaches were helping her through the transition to level 6.
“I think it’s the repetition,” she said. “I’m doing really good on floor. That’s where I’m getting my high scores.”
Meanwhile, Ellie Cardosi has come into her own at level 8. The seventh-grader has knocked out three consecutive all-around, first-place finishes including a scorching 37.2 out of a possible 40 points.
“I’m feeling more confident because it is my second season,” she said.
Audrey Hinatsu, 17, is making her parents cringe. The level 10 gymnast is pulling off some professional moves.
“It’s scary but exciting all at the same time,” she said. “Everything is hard at this level. Nothing is easy anymore.”
For example, Hinatsu is mastering the bail on uneven bars. Hinatsu casts from the high bar while facing the ceiling and then turns her body 180 degrees just in time to grab the low bar then facing the floor.
“Nationals is my goal,” she said. “And doing the best job I can do. It will be amazing if I can make it there.” She has already come up with first-place bars, beam and floor routines this season.
Other notable performances during meets in Hillsboro, Beaverton and Newport included:
Alexa Baldy, 13, sticking a first on beam and floor; Nina Sanchez-Macias taking gold on vault; Emily Adams casting to first on bars; and Griffin LaVigne nailing a first-place floor routine.
“Our toughest meets are coming up,” said coach Mike Smith. Riverside will be on the road for the next four weekends, testing their metal in Portland, Coeur d’Alene, Eugene and Corvallis before going to state in Salem on March 19. “It will be real telling,” he said. “Those clubs are real large. That is really where we’ll measure if we can compete.”
Pacific Edge Invitational, Newport, Jan. 30
Audrey Hinatsu: vault-3rd, 8.575; bars-3rd, 7.55; beam-1st, 9.075; floor-3rd, 8.2; all around,-3rd, 33.4
Team-4th, 102.65 Points
Courtney Hert: vault-4th, 8.35; bars,8.35; beam, 8.3; floor, 8.55; all around, 33.55
Ellie Cardosi: vault-1st, 8.9; bars-2nd, 9.2; beam, 8.45; floor-1st, 9.45; all around-1st, 36.0
Emma Smith: vault-5th, 8.35; bars-6th, 8.4; beam,7.2; floor-6th, 9.15; all around, 33.1
Team-1st, 108.68 Points
Celia Peterson: vault-4th, 9.15; bars-7th, 8.25; beam,8.425; floor, 8.9; all around-10th, 34.725
Hannah Caracciolo: vault-2nd, 9.25; bars-2nd, 9.1; beam-9th, 8.675; floor-7th, 9.225; all around-4th, 36.25
Krissy Carter: vault-6th, 9.05; bars-1st, 9.25; beam-2nd, 9.3; floor-3rd, 9.325; all around-1st, 36.925
Poppy Miller: vault-2nd, 9.25; bars-7th, 8.3; beam-2nd, 8.8; floor-7th, 9.15; all around-4th, 35.5
Team – 6th, 109.43 Points
Alexa Baldy: vault-8th, 8.95; bars-3rd, 8.9; beam-6th, 9.425; floor-2nd, 9.4 all around-4th, 36.675
Ashley Quisenberry: vault-8,6; bars-10th, 8.65; beam-9th, 9.2; floor-10th, 8.925; all around, 35.375
Emily Adams: vault-5th, 9.2; bars-2nd, 9.05; beam, 8.6; floor, 8.7; all around, 35.55
Nina Sanchez-Macias: vault-4th, 9.275; bars-6th, 8.75; beam-8th, 9.25; floor-7th, 9.075; all around-4th, 36.35
Sofia Blair: vault, 8.725; bars, 7.25; beam, 8.9; floor, 8.8; all around, 33.6
Zoe Dunn: vault-9th, 9.0; bars, 8.0; beam, 8.9; floor, 8.8; all around, 34.7