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Auburn gymnasts making the leap

Top performers compete at Western Regional today
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Natalie Otis calls her gymnstics center small, but mighty. When people ask Noburu Miyagi where his gymnasts are from he beams with pride as he says Auburn, California, also small, but mighty in terms of gymnastics talent. Both Auburn Gymnastics Center and Miyagi’s Gymnastics are sending athletes to the USA Gymnastics Western Regional Championships in Anaheim today. The competition features gymnasts from the Western region of the United States. Winners will qualify for a bid to the National Championships. For Auburn Gymnastics’ Alice Neff and Kellie Osterling, the road to regionals has been paved with challenges and triumphs. Each girl dedicates about 20 hours a week to practice under coach Jennifer Christenson of Auburn. “It’s a big commitment on the part of the girls. They work out five to six days a week, four to five hours a day,” Christenson said. “Both of these two I was a coach at their gym when they were little. They have really trusted us in the fact of believing in us to help make them successful.” Osterling, a freshman at Del Oro, has been in gymnastics for 12 years. This will be her last season as she looks forward to being on the Del Oro Cheer Team next year. At state championships Osterling earned a 9.7 out of 10 on her beam routine. She hopes to duplicate her success at regionals this week. “I want to finish strong and have a great time,” Osterling said. “For floor my goal is to make my full routine. For beam I want to stick my connecting series. For vault my goal is to stand it up.” Neff, a junior at Del Oro, returned to the gym this year after taking two years off due to a broken heel. “It’s addicting. You get so bored not having gym,” Neff said. “I was going to do track this year, but I figured if I was going to be putting pressure on my heel I should do something I want.“ Neff has earned tremendous success her inaugural season back as a level 8 gymnast. Otis, who owns Auburn Gymnastics Center, said she believes Neff has a good chance of taking first place for her floor routine. Across town, five gymnasts at Miyagi Gymnastics Academy are also amping up their practice schedules to prepare for regionals. Miyagi’s is sending Melia Stout, a level 8 gymnast, along with level 9 gymnast Megan Gulley and Kiely Gode and Hannah Clark, who both compete at level 10. “It’s literally like a full-time job. They are at the gym more than they are at home” said Miyagi Gymnastics Academy assistant coach Monica Miyagi. “Right now it’s just numbers of routines over and over again and getting that muscle memory down, so they can perform when they are nervous.” Clark, a junior at Colfax High, said that her transition up to level 10, the highest level of competition at the Junior National division, is finally taking shape the way she hoped. “I’ve always struggled with ankle injuries. My first season as a level 10 I didn’t get to compete,” Clark said. “I made it to State Finals and had my highest score there. I’m peaking at the right time in the season.” Miyagi Gymnastics Academy owner and head coach Noburu Miyagi said he takes great pride in the championship program he has built in Auburn. “That was my dream when I came here from L.A.,” Miyagi said. “Hannah is the leading gymnast at my gym and the highest at the junior national level.” The Auburn gyms will also face plenty of other local competition. Loomis Extreme Gymnastics is sending Taylor Roche, a level 8, and Ann Stockwell, a level 9, down to Anaheim as well. “The girls have been practicing really hard and we think they are going to do really well,” said Loomis Extreme head coach Michelle Degroof. Clark said she is keeping her mind on one thing, no matter who takes home the gold. “Whatever happens it’s OK because we’re going to Disneyland.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.