By NANCY MORGAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 2000
Lots of practice, a strong work ethic and good timing resulted in state championships for Lauren Gibson and Kirsten Chmielewski.
The Tampa Bay Turners Level 6 gymnasts battled challengers for all-around honors at the Long Center in Clearwater last month.
It was the first state title for Gibson and the second for Chmielewski.
"We always like it when we come out on top," said Mary Linnemeyer, who with Amy Schulthess and Brad Harris coach the girls.
"Only one among a good group of girls can win, and both Lauren and Kirsten worked hard for this.
"Lauren is a fighter who just keeps working, and for Kirsten to win state in her first year is attributed to her good work ethic," Linnemeyer said.
Gibson, 14, was unbeaten in the floor exercise and all-around competition and won in the balance beam.
"I'd say floor is my favorite," Gibson said. "I like the fact I can't fall off it. Knowing that gives me confidence."
Gibson was nervous and battling a temperature.
The meet was dedicated to a family that participates at Tampa Bay Turners. The family had endured a tragic loss, and the dedication helped Gibson focus on her job.
As a result, she scored a nine and higher on vault and beam and in floor events to earn a 36.475 overall for first place.
Chmielewski, 12, first won state in Level 4 and last year was second in Level 5.
This season's championship was a pleasant surprise for the preteen.
"I'm nervous when I compete at new places," Chmielewski said. "Since I had been to the Long Center before, I felt more relaxed and familiar with my surroundings."
Gibson and Chmielewski have been added to the Turners' "Wall of Fame," on which there are poster-size pictures of all their state champions..
Tampa Bay's Level 5 gymnasts earned a sixth-place finish.
The team was led by Jocilyn George and Barbara Simkanich, who each placed second overall.
Simkanich won her age division's floor and vault events.
Ashley Sullivan captured her age division's floor-event title, as did Dayna Adams.
LaFleur's Gymnastics of Largo won its second consecutive Level 5 state championship on the first-place all-around performances of Jordyn Wright, Alyssa Collins and Nicole Abdo.
Wekiva Thomas, Danielle Kazakos and Jamie Applefield turned in third-place performances.
Bayside Gymnastics placed ninth overall in Level 6 with medals earned by Hillary Murphy, Caitlin Wright, Melissa Tomlin, Kirby Kreider and Kelly Richard.
Gemini School of Gymnastics was fifth in Level 6 and 10th in Level 5.
Kasie Bache won the Level 6 beam title for her age division. Brittney Eigo was tops in the Level 5 vault.
Top 10 all-around awards were earned by Chelsea Blattne, Sara Scholz and Eigo in Level 5 and Casey Dolson, Adriana Liebling and Joelle Ferguson in Level 6.
MOVING UP: Margaret Dann and Lauren Companioni, Level 10 standouts for the Tampa Bay Turners and national team members, last month signed letters of intent for full scholarships this fall, says Turners coach Brad Harris.
Dann will attend the Uiversity of Illinois, and Companioni will enroll at Louisiana State University.
USA Gymnastics was scheduled to perform at the Ice Palace over the weekend. Dann and Companioni were invited to participate in a floor exercise routine exhibition.
FOOTBALL: The Suncoast Youth Football Conference concluded its season last month with championships at Dixie High School.
Clearwater captured its second consecutive flyweight title in a 21-6 victory over cross-town rival Countryside.
Only two points separated first- and second-place in the mighty mite, pee wee and midget finals.
Countryside defeated Clearwater 8-6, as did Dunedin over Seminole. Countryside edged Clearwater 14-12 in the midget division.
CLASH OF CHAMPIONS: Competition continues for the Pinellas Youth Football Conference varsity champions.
They are invited for the first time to participate in the Game Day of Champions promoted and supported by the Tampa Bay Sports Commission and the Glazer Family Foundation.
The event Saturday at Raymond James Stadium showcases top teams in youth conferences in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties and provides the opportunity to play on the same field as their professional counterparts.
To reach the Game Day of Champions, the PYFC's St. Pete Lil Devils flyweight, pee wee and midget teams, along with Largo's mighty mite squad, will face a champion from one of the six conferences in the Tampa area.
Likewise, Suncoast Youth Football Conference varsity champions Countryside mighty mite and midget, Clearwater flyweight and Dunedin pee wee will compete against a Hillsborough champion.
Winners of these eight games, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, will advance to the activities at Raymond James.
Saturday's action begins at 9 a.m. with flyweight finals, followed by mighty mite at 11 a.m., pee wee at 1 p.m. and midget at 3.
The Hillsborough County All-Star High School Game begins at 7:30 p.m.