The camaraderie between Whitehorse’s Polarettes and Juneau gymnasts is heartwarming to witness.
They cheer on each other as if they were teammates or even life-long friends.
But at the end of the day they are competitors, and there are only so many medals to go around.
Thirty-three gymnasts, including eight from Juneau, competed at the Yukon Gymnastics Championships on Saturday at Polarettes Gymnastics Club.
Yukon’s Polarettes won six out of seven divisions and claimed 13 out of 18 all-around podium spots.
“It is strange because when we competed in Juneau, they ended up beating us in the team competition all-around … they beat us by like 0.5,” said Polarettes head coach Catherine O’Donovan. “So usually it’s pretty head-to-head. But for the last couple Yukon championships we have come out on top. Maybe it’s home court advantage or our athletes feel a little more confident, a little steadier on the beam or what have you.”
Of the four divisions with Juneau competitors, Polarettes won three and claimed seven of 12 podium finishes for all-around.
The Yukoners outperformed their American neighbours despite the Polarettes club adopting the USA Junior Olympic program this year, like the majority of clubs and gymnastics organizations across Canada. The Junior Olympic program is based on 10 levels in which gymnasts perform compulsory routines in levels one to five.
“This is the first year that we all train under the same system,” said O’Donovan. “In the past Juneau has come and competed under our rules, so we’ve always been at an advantage with that because we know our rules a little bit better. We’ve trained for it all year.
“They liked our rules, so they’d always come eager, but maybe without the same amount of practice.”
The change of programs, from the Canadian to the American, made no difference to Polarette Kya Larkin.
The eight-year-old was competing in her very first competition and managed to take first in Level 2/Group B (the older Level 2 group). She placed first on the vault, bars and beam and also took silver on floor.
“On bars, with my stride circle, it was the first time I went all the way around … in a competition,” said Larkin.
“I was really excited because it was my first time, my first competition.”
Polarette Maude Molgat had the most competition to overcome for gold. Molgat took gold all-around in Level 4, the largest divisions with eight gymnasts, including three from Juneau. She also won gold on bars, beam and floor and grabbed silver on vault.
“She won by a pretty big margin: she was a point ahead of the nearest person next to her,” said O’Donovan. “She’s a really strong competitor. She doesn’t seem to get too frazzled or distracted.
“(Second place’s Ava Jampolsky) and her are best friends, so that will be an interesting rivalry to see develop over the years.”
Molgat’s Yukon title comes on the heels of another big accomplishment. The previous weekend she took silver all-around in Level 4 at the Ogopogo Invitational in Kelowna, B.C.
Polarettes Lily Witten and Riley Boland also won hardware at the Ogopogo and did again on Saturday in Level 3.
Witten took gold all-around with first on vault (tying Juneau’s Kara Strong), first on floor and second on bars.
Boland placed first on the beam, third on bars for fourth all-around.
“I felt really confident about being on beam. It’s one of my best events,” said Boland. “I tried to make everything big and tried to not rush it.”
Saturday’s championship saw Polarette’s Reena Coyne, the highest-level gymnast in the club, perform at Junior Olympic Level 9. Coyne was the only Yukon gymnast to compete at the Canada Winter Games this past February and is slated to compete at the Western Canada Summer Games in Wood Buffalo, Alta., this August.
“This was more of a demonstration for the younger kids and the parents, to see what you can do when you get to a certain level,” said O’Donovan. “And with her being a potential Western Canada Summer Games athlete, the more she gets to compete, the better.
“This is actually our last opportunity – we’ve been removed as a sport from the Western Canada Summer Games, which no body in western Canadian gymnastics is very happy about. It is a good stepping stone to prepping our athletes for more international meets.”
Contact Tom Patrick at
Level 2/Group A
1st Ameilie Guilbeault (Yukon)
2nd Kasey-Lynne Cozens (Yukon)
3rd Addie Buss (Juneau)
4th Gillian Mullan (Yukon)
5th Bailey Nolan (Yukon)
Level 2/Group B
1st Kya Larkin (Yukon)
2nd Anais Hildes (Yukon)
3rd Kate Koepke (Yukon)
4th Maya Hudson (Yukon)
5th Mia Raymond (Yukon)
1st Lily Witten (Yukon)
2nd Kalina Morrison (Yukon)
3rd Kate DeBuse (Juneau)
4th Riley Boland (Yukon)
5th Kara Strong (Juneau)
6th Rebecca Czerny (Yukon)
7th Marielle Martin (Yukon)
1st Maude Molgat (Yukon)
2nd Ava Jampolsky (Yukon)
3rd Abigail Booton (Juneau)
4th Megan Miller (Juneau)
5th Hannah MacLellan (Yukon)
6th Aryanna Lavanderos (Yukon)
7th Ella Paldy (Yukon)
8th Audrey Welling (Juneau)
1st Megan Lujan (Juneau)
2nd Sage Walker (Juneau)
3rd Sasha Kozmen (Yukon)
4th Alexis Benson (Yukon)
5th Anna Gishler (Yukon)
1st Bianca Berko-Malvasio (Yukon)
2nd Matisse Robertson (Yukon)
Canadian Level 5/Junior Olympic 9
1st Reena Coyne (Yukon)