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Smart leads RCG girls at Regional championships

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Submitted photo – The five girls from Redwood Coast Gymnastics who made it all the way to the regional tournament. From left to right, Kelli Koressel, Emily Pesch and Riley Cress (back row), Macy Bode and Iris Smart (front).

Eureka’s Iris Smart is leaving a legacy that will be difficult to top in local gymnastics.

Smart was one of five girls on the Redwood Coast Gymnastics team to qualify for the recent Region 1 tournament, which includes the top young gymnasts from throughout California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

The 14-year-old is one of two level 8 girls (out of 10 levels) competing for the local team, which is rarified air for gymnasts on the North Coast.

At the state championships she scored higher than any other level 8 gymnast on the team has ever scored, setting a new standard on the North Coast on the way to qualifying for the regional competition.

Smart placed in the top-10 in all of her events at the state tournament, including a fifth-place on the beam and a sixth-place in the all-around.

Her teammate Emma Mitchell moved up from level 7 earlier in the season, but unfortunately missed out on the big late-season tournaments through injury.

The team, which has been operating since 2000, has only ever had three level 9 gymnasts.

“In a small town in a remote area, that’s difficult,” RCG coach Brian Van Pelt said. “We’ve been very blessed with a good group of girls and coaches to help get them up to that level.”

The coach believes Smart has what it takes to continue moving up.

“We’re hoping, if she stays healthy, she might be able to get to level 9 next year,” Van Pelt said.

Four of Smart’s teammates also qualified for the prestigious regional championships.

Eureka’s Macy Bode, 10, was among the most improved gymnasts on the team this season, jumping from level 4 to level 6 and qualifying for both the state and regional tournaments in her first year of eligibility.

Riley Cress, 14, Kelli Koressel, 13, and Emily Pesch, 13, each also advanced to the prestigious regional competition.

Koressel placed eighth in the Bars, while Bode was ninth on Vault and Cress 10th in both the Bars and Beam.

At the state competition, Cress placed a very impressive fourth on Vault, while Koressel was sixth in the Bars and seventh on Vault.

Bode was eighth on Vault and Pesch was 10th on Bars.

“The girls have really bonded,” Van Pelt said. “They’ve been very successful and we’re very proud of them.”

This year Redwood Coast Gymnastics welcomed three new members, bringing the team roster to 17 girls ranging in age from 8-14.

The RCG girls compete from level 3 up, and can qualify for the region championships once they reach level 6.

And like many local athletes, road trips are a big part of it all, with the team traveling for up to eight tournaments each year.

This month the club boosters will be holding their annual sponsorship drive.

If you would like to become a sponsor, or would like to make a donation, please contact Toni Smart, president of the Booster Club, at 601-8061.

Rina Kondo is an assistant coach with the team.

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