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Prince Rupert gymnasts roll at Smithers gymnastics competition

Rupert athletes a mainstay on the podium, all qualify for provincials
The Prince Rupert Gymnastics Association athletes await their scores during competition in Smithers. (Submitted photo)

It was a big weekend for the Prince Rupert Gymnastics Association as they travelled to Smithers to take part in their first competition of the new year.

Decked out in their new uniforms, the team was ready to compete as they joined squads from Terrace, Kitimat, Burns Lake and the hosts, Smithers Saltos Club.

Athletes took part in competition from levels one to eight of the Junior Olympic (JO) program. At the JO 2 level, it was Koiia Hausner who swept to gold in all four events – vault, bars, beam and floor – for one of the top marks. Harper Dopko and Hannah Jackson also achieved scores of gold overall.

Ava Clarance, Cambrie Bosco and Emma Touchet from PRGA wait to hear their final tallies. Clarance finished second in the JO 7 category, while Touchet (2nd) and Bosco (4th) earned strong scores in JO 6a. (Submitted photo)

Up in JO 3a it was the Jaskiewicz sisters setting the bar, as Ezrie and Sofie finished first and second overall. Ezrie led the way on vault (9.7), floor (9.425) and beam (9), while Sofie had the top score on bars (9.350). Peita Movold rounded out the top three.

JO 3c saw Rupert’s Jenaya Cruz finish on top, thanks to a 9.550 on bars and a 9.275 on beam. Abby Touchet used a strong performance on the vault (9.575) to earn a third place finish.

“I’m so glad that the kids are happy, the parents are happy. But it’s good to see the scores so I know where they need to improve,” PRGA head coach Erin Hipkiss said. “The goal is to up those scores even more so we come home winning at provincials.”

Kiri Orton and her PRGA teammates warm up prior to taking part in competition in Smithers. Orton would go on to finish in first place in the JO 4b category. (Submitted photo)

The wins kept coming for Prince Rupert in JO 4a as Ellie Dickens vaulted to a 9.125, as well as a top score on the bars, to come in first place. Alivia Ciccone was not far behind her teammate, scoring good marks on vault and floor to place second.

Kiri Orton wanted in on the winning ways as well, swinging to a score of 9.475 on bars to lock up the top spot in her category of JO 4b. Ava Baldinger’s 9.175 on vault was tops among the group, as she finished in third place.

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Reaching up into JO 6a, PRGA’s Emma Touchet narrowly missed out on the top mark to Bailey Tendall, the Smithers girl unstoppable as she posted high scores in vault, bars and beam. The top floor score went to an unlikely competitor though, as Rupert’s Cambrie Bosco wowed with a 9.383. It was an incredible mark, given that the nine-year-old had jumped up in her age bracket to compete against more seasoned athletes.

Hipkiss had every confidence that Bosco was up for the challenge. “It’s incredible considering some of her competition was six years older than her and at least a foot taller. I knew she could compete with them, she’s a tough kid,” Hipkiss said.

Kiri Orton and Ava Baldinger wait for their turn during competition in Smithers. Orton came first in the JO 4b category, while Baldinger finished in third. (Submitted photo)

Finally in JO 7, Ava Clarance – who will be representing PRGA in the B.C. Winter Games in February – was bested by a slim margin in her quest for first. Clarance’s 9.2 on the vault was the top score of the group, but she was topped in beam by Kitimat’s Maggie Baker. Clarance edged Baker on the bars, but a few extra tenths of points on floor gave Baker the decision.

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“I loved seeing all of them represent the community in such a beautiful way, and represent themselves with such a strong and confident vibe,” Hipkiss said of the PRGA team.

Perhaps Hipkiss’ proudest achievement was ensuring that all 19 of her athletes who made the trip posted scores good enough to qualify them for provincials. Those competitions will take place in April.

Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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