Uneven nerves, big result
Rochester's Felmlee fares well on bars, vault in national meet
By Steve Webb
Sarah Felmlee looked a little nervous as she stood in front of the uneven bars Friday at the AAU national meet.
When you are 11 years old and have been a gymnast for three years, some uncertainty is to be expected. In Sarah's case, it was unwarranted. She did just fine in her routine.
The Rochester youngster is one of about 800 gymnasts from all over the country who have descended upon the Regional Sports Center, but what looks like an out-of-control primary school is actually a well-organized event.
Felmlee is a member of the J.E.T.S., a Rochester gymnastics club that had 13 girls entered in the competition.
"This is our first nationals," said coach Jes Kasel. "I think it was a shock at first for the girls, but once they got in here and got going, all of them have done well."
Felmlee was pleased because she had just landed a back handspring on Friday for the first time and she had scored a 9.15 on the vault.
"She works for it," said Kasel. "It doesn't come easy for her and her flexibility isn't where it needs to be."
Felmlee said she practices four days a week, but that she really likes it.
Peachy meet for Team Georgia
Then there was the opposite side of the coin.
Team Georgia is a veteran of national competition and has 53 girls entered. By Friday afternoon they had already amassed about 20 national championships in various age levels and events.
"This is an excellent competition," said Denise Jessen, who is an AAU state chairman in Georgia. "There is a nice variety of competitors and we really enjoy Rochester.
"They are very accommodating and you can tell they have put in a lot of time on this."
She said the venue here was second only to Wide World of Sports, the big Disney complex in Florida.
"We would definitely come back here," she said.
Eleanor Joubert, a state board director with the Georgia team, said it's not just the competition that benefits the girls on the team.
"They get to meet other girls and get to know them. We were at a pool party last night and we have already been invited to a California meet," she said.
Ed Hruska, Executive Director of the Rochester Amateur Sports Commission, was pleased with how things were progressing.
"We've had a lot of assistance from KAATS Club. They are the local experts. We have learned as we go," he said.
Attendance so far has been above what was expected, with an estimated 1,000 to 1,200 fans showing up every day.
There were eight separate sessions on Friday, with two different gyms set up in the huge fieldhouse.
"We're happy to hear those (favorable) comments," said Hruska. "We have to keep our focus on the athletes and the fans.
"If they go away happy, that's our accomplishment."
The opening session today started at 8 a.m. with gymnasts of high skill levels in various age groups.
The Vikings cheerleaders were scheduled to be there for the opening ceremony.
The championships close Sunday afternoon after the boys competition, with final awards about 2:30 p.m.