Delani Sher had a feeling it could be a good day for her team. She didn’t know it was going to be a sweep.

That’s what the Waterville YMCA gymnastics coach got, however, at the USA Gymnastics state championship in March. Ten gymnasts from Waterville showed up at the competition competing in Levels 7-9, and all 10 earned spots at the Region 6 meet in Springfield, Massachusetts, marking the first time ever that the program placed all competing gymnasts into the Northeast regional meet.

“We’ve only ever had two or three make it at a time,” said Sher, who will lead her Level 9 gymnasts to Springfield on Saturday and her Levels 7 and 8 gymnasts back to Massachusetts in two weeks. “Last year we had five, and that was the largest we had.

“The entire group making it is quite a big deal. … They put in a lot of time. They’ve put in probably double the amount of energy that most sports require. They’re in the gym five to six days a week, four or five hours a day.”

The state championships were held in Waterville on March 17-18, with seven spots at each level open to represent Maine at the regionals depending on the highest all-around score. Sher, who had a Level 7 team, Level 8 team and two Level 9 gymnasts competing, felt confident that some of her athletes could earn the elusive bids that were at stake, but she made it a point to keep the pressure low going in.

“For some of these kids, it was their first time around doing this. The idea was to just have a really positive season,” she said. “We weren’t going to stress about scores, we weren’t going to stress about placements.”

They didn’t need to. Waterville crushed the competition. The Level 7 team, made up of Madison Chamberlain (13-years-old), Autumn Everett (13), Emma Markowitz (13) and Abby Prescott (17), finished first among teams and had each gymnast earn that top-seven spot in either the younger or older group. The Level 8 group, made up of Erin Fontaine (12), Amelia Charland (14), Reed Gulden (14) and Mylee Grant (10) did the same. And Waterville’s two Level 9 gymnasts, Averi Beaudoin and Maddy Russ (both 13), finished first and second in their division’s all-around standings.

As the results telling the story of Waterville’s dominance were rolling in, Sher said that she and the gymnasts alike were feeling a surge of pride both in the performances and the state of the program.

“We’re very proud of them. They work very hard,” she said. “It’s exciting for the gym, it’s exciting for all the kids in the program, not just these 10, to know we’re headed in the direction we’re all working towards.”

All the performances were impressive, but a few stood out. Beaudoin and Russ were the best in the state at the highest level their team offered (Waterville doesn’t have Level 10), and Grant, a rising star who was a USA Gymnastics Tops National B team member last year, bested older gymnasts to finish first in the vault, beam and floor, second in the bars and, consequently, first in the all-around.

“I think when you have a lot of really talented kids, they all push each other,” Sher said. “The goal was for some of the kids to make it to regionals, but the whole group exceeded our expectations by all of them making it.”

Qualifying in the Region 6 meet would mean making it to Rochester, New York, for the Eastern championships. Waterville’s never had a gymnast make it that far, but Sher’s group is eager to achieve that feat — as well as challenge some prejudices about the quality of gymnastics up north.

“When you tell people you’re from Maine, they kind of look at you like you don’t know what you’re doing,” Sher said. “We’ve done a lot to get as much knowledge into this state and we’ve gone out to get as much knowledge into this state as we can to make sure that these kids, when they go into these competitions, are more than prepared.”

The preparation, and the confidence that comes with it, is taking hold. After making it onto the regional stage, the Waterville gymnasts have long since learned that they have what it takes to go even further.

“They’ve seen a lot of gymnastics, and I think they’ve realized that they’re just as good as what’s going on in the rest of the world,” she said. “When it comes to performance, we just want them to feel confident in their ability to go out and perform like we know that they’re capable of doing.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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