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November 25, 2009 > Demaray's qualifies for state championships

Demaray's qualifies for state championships

By Alyson Whitaker
Photos By Alyson Whitaker

Every sport has its underdog. Gymnastics is no exception. With little experience in high level competition, Demaray's Gymnastics Academy beat the odds this fall with girls in levels four, five and six qualifying to compete at state championships.

Coaches Crystal Erickson and Jivco Jechev couldn't be happier. Under their direction, the team has grown over the last year from just 12 gymnasts to over 35 girls.

Team members have overcome physical obstacles, unrelated injuries and other challenges on the road to success. They've been supported along the way, not just by their coaches, but by the families of all other teammates as well.

"Our girls are the best behaved and hardest working children I have ever had the privilege of coaching," said Erickson. "The parents are amazing, with love and support for all the kids, not just their own."

The team won first place at the last three competitions in spring of this year and 90 percent qualified for zone championships this fall. Of those who participated, nine made it to the state championships being held in November and December. Their numbers were high enough to form three teams, with levels four and five having the required minimum of three gymnasts enabling them to compete as a team.

Clair Stastka was the second-youngest competitor in Northern California at the Level 6 State Championships earlier this month. Stastka has jumped four levels in the last year, and competed at the state event on November 14.

Level five gymnasts Juliette Erickson, Tenley Uttenreuther and Sophia Cheng have varied years of training. While Erickson has spent hundreds of hours in the gym over 10 years (mom Crystal is one of the coaches), both Uttenreuther and Cheng have only been in the sport for about a year and a half.

The Level four gymnasts headed to state are no different. Andrea Nguyen placed first in floor exercise at the zone competition earlier this fall. Madeline Ruiz, Aislan Garrett, Natasha Tehrani and Janelle Totari each have a shot to score points for the team. Their state debut will be December 5.

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