There was an unusual configuration of athletes at the Yukon Gymnastics Championships on Saturday.
In what is an extreme rarity in territorial championships for any sport, Alaskans outnumbered Yukoners at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club in Riverdale.
The championship welcomed 19 athletes from Juneau’s Southeast Alaska Gymnastics Academy, two more than from the hosting Whitehorse club.
But a bigger number of Juneau gymnasts didn’t prevent the Polarettes from collecting more hardware.
Whitehorse gymnasts won five out of six divisions and collected 11 medals to Juneau’s seven.
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Every division had a new champion crowned this year.
“We did really well,” said Polarettes head coach Catherine O’Donovan. “It’s a little tricky for Juneau because they have to accommodate Canadian rules when we compete with them. They like our rules better because we don’t have compulsory routines, so they have a chance to be a bit more creative.”
Whitehorse’s Emily King was the only Yukoner in the younger Level 2 group, Level 2B, but beat four Juneau competitors for the top spot.
The nine-year-old was a bit astonished by her result, “because when I saw the other athletes it surprised me how good they were,” said King. “It made me a bit nervous.”
King was also the only gymnast at the championship to place first in all four events, including her favourite, the beam.
“It was the best score I got in this competition,” said King.
King was given a bonus award for all-around excellence, “because she did everything perfect on Saturday,” said O’Donovan.
Polarettes’ Fayne O’Donovan, 13, who won Level 3 the last three years, won Level 4 at the championships.
Teammates Caitlyn Venasse and Reena Coyne took second and third, respectively.
It was the first time all three competed at that level and marked the first time the championships included a Level 4 division since 2010.
“We did the Yukon championships earlier than usual because they are heading out next week at their first high-level meet: the Western (Canadian Gymnastics) Championships,” said Catherine. “So we wanted to give them some practice at Level 4.”
Saturday was Fayne’s first time competing in all four events since the Arctic Winter Games in March of 2012 because of an ankle injury.
She’s not fully recovered, “but she’s getting there,” said Catherine, who is also Fayne’s mom. “She has a nerve disorder in her ankle, so it’ll come back often.”
“I was excited, mostly because I love competing in floor. I just like performing,” said Fayne. “So it was exciting to do that again. It was also exciting that I got to compete in everything and did well in it.”
Fayne captured the top spot with first place finishes on the vault and on the floor while Coyne won on the bars and Venasse won on the beam.
Yukon’s Anisa Albisser won Level 3, up from eighth place at last year’s championship.
“She had a really solid meet,” said Catherine. “She’s my youngest Level 3 (gymnast) and she’s really come into her own this year. She’s done amazingly well inside and outside the Yukon.”
Albisser, who won bronze on the vault at the Kyle Shewfelt Festival in Calgary last month, came first on the bars on Saturday.
“She was very clean and did a very powerful bar routine with lots of height,” said Catherine.
Teammate Megan Banks placed second ahead of five Juneau gymnasts in Level 3.
Polarettes’ Jasmine Bergeron won Level 2A, taking first on the bars and floor. She was just 0.03 points up from second place’s Matisse Robertson of Whitehorse.
“Jasmine is our tiny powerhouse,” said Catherine. “This tiny, little girl has power you wouldn’t believe. It finally worked out for her. She tends to get nervous at competitions ... so we spent a lot of time teaching her confidence and how to calm her nerves.”
Whitehorse’s Bianca Berko-Malvasio was tops on the vault and the beam to win Level 1A.
Teammate Anna Gishler won on bars to place second in Level 1B - the only division not won by a Yukoner.
Berko-Malvasio and Gishler are both in their first year of gymnastics.
“We had six Level 1s and I think four of them are brand new,” said Catherine. “The Level 1s handled the pressure very well.”
Fayne, Venasse and Coyne will be the only Polarettes to compete at the western Canadian championships this weekend in Winnipeg.
“I’m excited for the whole experience,” said O’Donovan. “I’m not expecting to win anything because it will only be my second time competing in Level 4. And we don’t have all the really high skills. So I’m not expecting to win, I’m more there for the experience, so hopefully next time I go I can win some medals.”
All three competed at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games, winning the Yukon a bronze in the team event. Fayne won a total of four medals at the Games, including a gold on the vault.
Last year Fayne won gold on the vault at the 2012 B.C. Artistic Gymnastics Championships and last month at a meet in Airdrie, Alta, and the Kyle Shewfelt Festival.
1st Bianca Berko-Malvasio (Yukon)
2nd Karmen Funderbuck (Juneau)
3rd Jeanne Lin Muller (Juneau)
4th Bridget Gehring (Juneau)
5th Alexis Benson (Yukon)
6th Monica Arsenault (Yukon)
7th Kate DeBuse (Juneau)
8th Audrey Welling (Juneau)
1st Sage Walker (Juneau)
2nd Anna Gishler (Yukon)
3rd Abigail Booton (Juneau)
4th Sasha Kozman (Yukon)
5th Ali Russell (Yukon)
6th Kara Strong (Juneau)
7th Ruchi Haight (Juneau)
1st Jasmine Bergeron (Yukon)
2nd Matisse Robertson (Yukon)
3rd Robyn Poulter (Yukon)
4th Maggie Fekete (Yukon)
5th Sydney Cairns (Yukon)
6th Madeline Handley (Juneau)
1st Emily King (Yukon)
2nd Sydney Strong (Juneau)
3rd Megan Lujan (Juneau)
4th Rayna Gehring (Juneau)
5th Molly Brocious (Juneau)
1st Anisa Albisser (Yukon)
2nd Megan Banks (Yukon)
3rd Anna Whisenant (Juneau)
4th Julianna Kawakami (Juneau)
5th Lena Kawakami (Juneau)
6th Cadence Campbell (Juneau)
7th Renee Winn (Juneau)
1st Fayne O’Donovan (Yukon)
2nd Caitlyn Venasse (Yukon)
3rd Reena Coyne (Yukon)
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