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Lancers aim for record at section final


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High sophomore Abby Purnell finished first at last week’s league meet with an all-around score of 38.000.

The St. Francis High gymnastics team hopes to vault to new heights at today’s Central Coast Section Championships. Coach Lynn Horiye said his Lancers not only seek another title – they’ve won 17, including the past 13 – but also the best team score in school history.

“We’re hoping to beat 152.5,” he said. “We’re capable of doing that.”

St. Francis has already come close, posting a score of 151.65 in a win over Lowell April 23.

But what will it take to go up nearly another point?

“Consistency,” said Horiye, in his 27th year as coach. “We have to stay on the balance beam, hit our bar routines and do pretty well at everything.”

This is St. Francis’ deepest team in five or six years, according to Horiye, who has 18 girls on varsity. Two of his gymnasts are out with injuries, which the coach said, “hurts a little bit,” but not enough to dissuade him from believing the Lancers are the team to beat in CCS.

“We’re really deep and still have a lot of good gymnasts,” Horiye said. “If we get beat, it will have to be by a great team, because we’re pretty good.”

Lowell is considered by many to be St. Francis’ biggest threat at the CCS championships, scheduled 4:30 p.m. today at Gymtowne Gymnastics in South San Francisco. The Lancers handily defeated Lowell last month, but Horiye said the San Francisco school was without three of its top gymnasts. The 151.65 St. Francis produced that day ranks as the team’s highest score since 2009.

The Lancers scored 151.50 last week to dominate the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League South Division finals at Los Altos. Cupertino scored 143.05 to finish second, Mountain View took third (141.20) and Los Altos came in fourth (141) at the May 8 meet.

The top three all-around performers came from St. Francis: Abby Purnell placed first (38.000); Melissa Seaman and Kelsey Celaya tied for second (37.900). Purnell won the uneven bars (9.600), Seaman tied for first on the floor exercise (9.700) and Celaya finished second on the balance beam (9.650).

Sophomore Purnell is having “a good year,” Horiye said, while freshman Seaman tops the team in all-around wins. The coach added that sophomore Celaya – who won the all-around crown at last year’s CCS championships – “can beat anyone on vault.”

Horiye praised two more underclassmen for excelling as all-around performers: freshman Tessa Divita and junior Amanda Tsukushi. Divita took 10th all-around at the league meet and won the beam (9.800); Tsukushi finished 15th all-around and tied for third on the vault (9.200).

“They’ve done a good job,” he said.

Other contributors include Julia Foust and Stephanie Eyre, seniors Horiye described as “our two leaders and captains.” Junior Michelle Fong has been a strong supporter of her teammates, he added, bolstering the team chemistry.

“The girls all like each other and work for each other,” the coach said, “and they have a good time.”

Spartans, Eagles advance as well

Mountain View and Los Altos will join St. Francis at today’s CCS championships, easily exceeding the 129 needed to qualify for the meet as a team.

A pair of Spartans placed among the top 10 all-around performers at the league meet. Elaine Silverman finished fourth (37.00), while Elizabeth Murray placed ninth (36.200) and tied the Eagles’ Tori Heyman for first on the vault (9.250). Los Altos’ Kelli Yamaguma tied Mountain View’s Emilia Mancilla for sixth on the beam (9.350).

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