The Starz are headed south.
After much hard work and dedication over their eight-month competition season, 10 athletes from the Lakewood Starz gymnastics team, ranging from Level 4s all the way up to Level 8s, will compete against some of the nation's best at the 2013 YMCA National Gymnastics Championship and Invitational Competition at Savannah, Ga., in a little under two weeks time.
This is the 75th anniversary of the event, which was first held in Detroit in 1938.
These are the 10 Starz gymnasts that will be traveling to Savannah, Ga., later this month for the 2013 YMCA National Gymnastics Championships to compete against more than 2,000 of the top young gymnasts in the country. In front is Ashlyn Saracki. In the second row, from left, are Emily Walsh, Ellie Kreinheder, Brittany Kightlinger, Abbey Maloney and Mariette Williams. In back from left, are Mikayla Johnson, Morgan Hoffman, Morgan Johnson and Emily Goodwill. The group is coached by Haley Bator.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
"It's a really big accomplishment," Starz coach Haley Bator said on Wednesday during practice at the Lakewood Family YMCA. "There will be about 2,000 gymnasts there from all over the country, and it'll be a great opportunity for the girls to see the best of the best in Y gymnastics."
Not only will the girls be able to see the "best of the best," but they'll undoubtedly show that they belong in that esteemed class as well.
Making up this special group that will be representing our corner of New York is Ellie Kreinheder, Ashlyn Saracki, Brittany Kightlinger, Abbey Maloney, Mikayla Johnson, Mariette Williams, Emily Goodwill, Emily Walsh, Morgan Hoffman and, last but certainly not least, Morgan Johnson.
And though a few of the Starz have previous competition experience at the Y Nationals, taking part in the event when it was held at places such as Toledo, Ohio, and Milwaukee, making the trip for the first time will be Kightlinger, Saracki, Maloney and Kreinheder.
Nevertheless, Bator, who as a member of the Starz competed in the championship the last time it was held in Savannah some 10 years ago, is confident in each of her gymnasts ability to compete at a high level when the action starts.
"If they do what they know how to do, and stay confident in themselves," she said, "then they all should be able to do really well.
"It'll be interesting."
In order to qualify, each of the Starz had to receive an all-around (which is a composite score of four events - the vault, the bars, the beam and the floor exercise) qualifying score at some point throughout the season, which begins in late October.
All 14 of the Starz squad members eventually reached that qualifying mark, but of those 14 only the 10 aforementioned athletes have opted to make the trip and compete.
The four-day event kicks off on June 26 with an Olympic-style opening ceremony (among the number of festivities scheduled for that evening, the gymnasts will take part in a "march of states") at Forsyth Park - at 30 acres, it's the largest park in a city known for its numerous parks - located in the historic district of Savannah.
Then, the real work begins.
The competition, which will be held at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, gets under way on the morning of June 27 and will conclude on the evening of the 29th with closing ceremonies.