Thu09182014

Sports

Friendly rivals expect to vie for 3rd at CCS

Los Altos and Mountain View highs are fierce rivals in many sports, but not gymnastics.

The Eagles and Spartans train together at Los Altos under coach Shannon Thoke, who said, “The teams get along well.”

Well enough that when Mountain View edged Los Altos at the third meet of the season, the Eagles reacted with joy rather than disappointment.

“Los Altos was very happy Mountain View won,” Thoke said, “and Mountain View was very surprised (to win).”

That’s because the Spartans had never won a gymnastics meet. This is the first year Mountain View has had enough gymnasts (four) to compete as a team. And that April 15 win – in which the Spartans earned a score of 141.30, Los Altos a 140.30 and Mercy a 132.40 – marked the first time they had all four gymnasts competing at the same meet.

Elaine Silverman led Mountain View by posting an all-around score of 37.20, good enough for second place.

The freshman finished first on the uneven bars (9.60), second on the vault (9.20) and third on the balance beam (9.30).

“She should be competing for the top spot in CCS,” Thoke said. “She’s placed first or second (all-around) in every meet.”

Putting Silverman and another talented freshman, Elizabeth Murray, on a team that already included senior standout Emilia Mancilla – who qualified for the Central Coast Section championships as an individual last year – makes the Spartans a contender, according to Thoke.

“Elaine has a tremendous amount of skills, Emilia scores very highly, too, and Elizabeth is quite good – especially on beam,” the coach said. “They have a lot of talent on the team and should be just as competitive as Los Altos.”

While the Spartans may have more skill, Thoke noted the Eagles have the advantage when it comes to depth. Los Altos has eight gymnasts on varsity.

“Los Altos is deeper, but not all the girls compete in every event,” she said. “The Mountain View girls must do all of them (to produce a team score).”

The Eagles, who won their opening meet of the season against Half Moon Bay and Mountain View last month, have seven former club gymnasts on the roster. That includes senior captain Kelli Yamaguma, who placed eighth at CCS last year.

“She’s great all-around,” said Thoke, who added that Yamaguma’s best events are bars and beam.

Freshman Megan Schmiesing has flourished on floor, according to the coach, while senior Erin Woolley has made a strong comeback after missing the past two seasons due to injury.

“Erin has been solid all around,” Thoke said.

Emma Orner – who placed 14th at CCS last year – is on the comeback trail as well. Thoke said the junior missed the first two meets of the season with a back injury.

“I hope she can handle it the rest of the year,” the coach said. “I doubt she will compete all-around, but we hope she can do beam and bars.”

The Eagles and Spartans have two meets remaining before the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League South Division Finals, scheduled 5 p.m. May 8 at Los Altos. The CCS meet follows, slated 4:30 p.m. May 15 at Twisters Sports Center in Mountain View.

Both teams have already qualified for the CCS meet (which takes a score of at least 128), at which 13-time defending champ St. Francis is seen as the favorite. The three squads squared off Friday, with the Lancers producing a score of 148.85 to convincingly beat the host Eagles (140) and Spartans (139).

St. Francis gymnasts occupied the top three spots in the all-around: Abby Purnell (37.55), Melissa Seaman (37.45) and Tessa Divita (37.30). Mountain View’s Silverman (36.60) placed fourth.

Although Thoke conceded that St. Francis is “the team to beat” at CCS – with Lowell a close second – she is confident the Eagles and Spartans will be in medal contention.

“Both teams have a very good chance at third,” she said. “Los Altos and Mountain View are very even.”

The Eagles may be even better a year from now. Thoke believes the JV squad – led by junior Estefani Gomez – has a legitimate shot at winning the league title this season.

“A couple of the girls have the skills to move up (to varsity),” she said. “And there are three girls at Los Altos who didn’t join the team who were top-level gymnasts (in club) that we hope will join us next year.”

The Eagles’ and Spartans’ next meet is scheduled 6 p.m. Friday at Gymtowne in Moss Beach against Cupertino and Half Moon Bay.

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