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Despite lower numbers, local gymnastics club continues to enjoy success

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By Ray Hamill — A small but enthusiastic Redwood Coast Gymnastics Team has struggled with numbers in the wake of the pandemic, but that hasn’t prevented the team from continued success.

Seven members of the club recently traveled to the state championships to close out the compulsory season and enjoyed strong outings from all of them, including 11-year-old Elliot Banducci of Eureka, who took home a pair of Level 3 state championship medals.

Banducci “had a barnstormer of a meet,” according to coach Brian Van Pelt, and placed first in the balance beam with a score of 9.625, as well as earning a bronze in the floor exercise and placing seventh in the all-around competition.

Twelve-year-old Rori Copeland of Eureka also had an outstanding meet and won a Level 3 gold medal in the vault with a score of 9.50, as well as placing ninth on the balance beam and fifth in the all-around, tying with teammate Scarlett Zerlang in the latter.

Zerlang has enjoyed an impressive breakthrough season with the team and won a silver medal on the balance beam, while also placing sixth in both the vault and floor competitions.

“I thought that was a great accomplishment for her,” Van Pelt said of the 12-year-old who was only promoted to the team during the pandemic. “She has done an admirable job in getting up to speed and maintaining her focus and drive.”

Also competing in Level 3 competition, Eureka’s Kora Cox, 14, just missed out on a podium finish after placing fourth on the vault, and also placed fifth in the floor exercise and sixth in the all-around with a 36.325, which was her highest score of the season.

Two members of the local club also competed at Level 4.

Eureka’s Caroline Taylor, 11, won a bronze medal on the balance beam  with a score of 9.50, and also placed fifth in the floor exercise and 10th in the all-around with a 34.70, which was also her highest score of the season.

Twelve-year-old Rose Harper of Eureka also had a good meet with three podium medals, including winning a silver medal in the all-around with a score of 36.375. 

She also took home silver medal on both the balance beam and the vault.

Teammate Eva Cox also had a very good showing in the Level 5 competition and the teams’s only representative at the level.

The 14-year-old from Eureka just missed out on a podium finish after placing fourth on the vault, while also finishing eighth on the balance beam, ninth on the uneven bars and 10th in the all-around.

The success for all the girls was particularly gratifying after all the setbacks of the pandemic.

“It’s been a difficult year and half for all sports, and the sport of gymnastics fared no better than many others,” Van Pelt said. “These young ladies have had to deal with extensive gym closures, remote classes, outdoor trainings, etc. to continue to work in the sport that they love. Their accomplishments are a testament to their hard work and drive.”

The pandemic also has resulted in fewer number signing up for the club, which features 10 girls right now, down from the normal 14 or 15.

“The biggest impact is 6-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 4-year-olds haven’t been training, so our feeder program has been disrupted,” Van Pelt said. “But other than that, the girls we have are working hard and doing a great job.”

The Level 6-9 season will begin in the coming weeks and the Redwood Coast Gymnastics Club is busy preparing, with three competitors scheduled to compete at the upcoming state championships.

In addition to Cox, who is moving up to Level 6 after her strong showing at Level 5, teammates Anna McLaughlin and Ryenne File will both also compete at the Level 6 championships, with qualification for the Regionals also up for grabs.

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