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Auburn Gymnastics dominates at state meet
Inside the Auburn Gymnastics Center's new, 29,000-square-foot digs on 15th Street Southwest, co-owner Lauren Phelps watches as the upper-level gymnasts practice on the vault.
One by one, level 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 athletes pound down the runaway and hit the vault, flipping and twisting into a pit padded with foam blocks.
For some, Phelps – a top-level gymnast herself, who competed for the University of Washington before buying the center with her husband, Brent Phelps, in 1997 – has a word of advice, a suggestion or slight adjustment. For others, there's a simple nod, silent encouragement that they are on the right track.
Despite the arduous workout, the mood of the gymnasts is light, the remnant of their recent success at the Washington Optional State Meet at Everett Community College March 22-23 buoying their spirits.
"We did really good," Phelps said. "Our Level 8, 9 and 10 teams were all state champions. Our Level 7s was second, and our Level 6s was third place."
Phelps points out that the center's gymnasts also took home several individual honors.
"We had the highest scoring athletes at Levels 7, 8, 9 and 10," she said.
Kennedy Ausbun, a 10-year-old, Level 7 gymnast, notched the highest score at the meet with an all-around score of 38.5.
Teammate Shilese Jones, an 11-year-old Level 10 competitor, had a 38.1.
Also winning their all-around competitions were 14-year-old Samantha Smith, who won the Level 9 with a 37.1, and 13-year-old Ashley Yang, who notched a 38.075 in Level 8.
According to Phelps, the key to the success is the center's intensive training routine.
"Our upper level kids come in Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 8 p.m.," she said. "Kennedy and Shilese also come in during the mornings from 9 a.m. to noon."
For athletes who have invested in their sport, the ultimate goal is a berth in the Olympics, Phelps said.
Although the center has yet to boast an Olympian, several high level AGC alumni perform at the collegiate level, including the UW's Madison Podlucky, and Auburn Riverside graduates Baely Rowe and Haley Lange, who compete with the No. 5-ranked University of Utah squad.
For the AGC gymnasts, it's time to move on to the regional competitions.
"Our Level 7 and under are done, state is as far as they go," Phelps said. "Our Level 8, 9, 10 are going to regionals next weekend in Montana."
The Region 2 Gymnastics Championships on April 11-14 in Helena, Mont., features competitors from Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Montana, all vying for regional titles.
Level 9 gymnasts can earn the chance to move on to the Level 9 Western Gymnastics Championships, May 1-4 in Boise, Idaho, featuring gymnasts from all states west of the Mississippi.
For the Level 10 gymnasts, it's a chance to move on to the AAU Junior Olympic Nationals on July 28-30 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Phelps said she expects all of her regional competitors to move on to the next level. She credits the consistency of the center's staff for the gymnasts' success.
"I think that we have a really good staff that has been with us a long time, which is really hard to come by in the gymnastics community," she said. "There is usually a lot of moving around."
Phelps pointed out Jill McGee, an optional coach with the center.
"She's been with us since day one, when we opened," Phelps said. "Just having a staff that stays together is kind of rare."