By Ray Hamill — The Redwood Coast Gymnastics team returned to competition early last month with an impressive showing at the Xcel Regional Championships.
After going well over a year without any competition, seven of the club’s 15 girls qualified for the regional tournament in Reno and they lived up to expectations against the best young competition from throughout California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.
None more so than 15-year-old Iris Smart of Eureka, whose performance earned her a spot on the NorCal state team.
Smart, who competes in the Diamond or highest level, was crowned regional champion in the balance beam, scoring a new PR of 9.7, as well as placing third in the floor exercise (9.525) and fourth in the bars (9.5).
The Humboldt County native placed fourth in the all-around with a score of 38.00 and was the youngest of six gymnasts chosen to represent the NorCal state team.
Smart scored the second most points for the team, which placed second to Arizona.
“She performed at the edge of her ability,” coach Brian Van Pelt said. “She was extremely strong and represented Humboldt County with amazing poise.
“She was very obviously in a class of her own in the balance beam.”
Smart’s Redwood Coast Gymnastics teammate Emma Mitchell also had an outstanding meet despite competing for the first time in two years.
The 15-year-old placed fourth in the floor exercise with a 9.4 and sixth in the vault with a 9.2.
The team has only been practicing since early March and it was a quick turnaround to be ready for the prestigious regionals, although all of the gymnasts worked out on their own during the long shutdown.
“It was a kind of a miracle we were able to get the girls into shape on time,” Van Pelt said. “They’re really dedicated girls.”
Five other local gymnasts also made the trip, including 12-year-olds Macy Bode (Eureka) and Anna McLaughlin (McKinleyville), 15-year-olds Emily Pesch (Eureka) and Ryenne Kile (Eureka), and 16-year-old Riley Cress (Eureka), who was competing in her final competition.
Cress scored a 94.74 to place third in the balance beam and also placed fourth in the vault with a 9.675.
Kile had her best ever meet and placed 11th in the vault with a 9.45, while Pesch was sixth in the floor routine (9.275) and 10th in the balance beam (9.05).
Bode also had a strong meet, placing fourth in the floor exercise (9.125) and fifth on the balance beam with a career-best mark of 9.325.
McLaughlin was competing in her first meet at the Platinum level, and enjoyed an outstanding debut, placing fifth in both the vault (9.475) and the bars (9.25).
“Humboldt County was really well represented,” Van Pelt said.