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Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

Tampa gymnastics trio headed for Southeast regionals

Special correspondent
Published:
TAMPA -

It’s on to nationals for the First Victory Gymnastics Team – even if the girls who comprised the team didn’t at first realize it. They thought second place wouldn’t be good enough.

They were wrong.

The girls representing Team Florida at the nationals in Kissimmee consist of McKenna Mills, Lauren Franks and Katelyn Meister, who all train at the Victory Gymnastics facility in Oldsmar. They will be joined by Sydney Gray, Alexandria Valdes and Rachel Strickland on Team Florida. All will be coached by Viktor Savitski.

The three girls out of Victory Gym have different specialties. McKenna, 11, Lauren, 13, and Katelyn, 11, have been working under Savitski’s tutelage for several years and are now part of the first team to come out of Victory with a shot at the Southeast regionals, held in Clemson, S.C.

McKenna likes the floor exercises, Lauren excels on the bars, and Katelyn, who along with McKenna, wants to do gymnastics in college, specializes on the beam.

McKenna, like the other girls, never thought gymnastics would take them to a national level.

“When I was 6, I wanted to take a gymnastics class,’’ McKenna said. “I liked it and they chose me to be on the team. I was nervous at first, but I got pretty good at it and wanted to keep doing it.’’

Lauren started even earlier.

“I went to a Mommy and Me class that had some gymnastics and I kept wanting to go,’’ Lauren said. “It was fun and I got better.’’

Katelyn, made it to Victory by chance. Her mother drove the carpool at school and there was a drop off at Victory. She gave it a shot and was hooked.

“I grew up when I was a kid, down in Texas and my mom wanted me to get into gymnastics,’’ Katelyn said. “It looked fun and when I was 5 I moved up two levels.’’

All of the gymnasts are straight-A students and spend as much time on school as they do in the gym. Both require a lot of time, but that’s the price for success.

When the Victory team was competing to move on, they thought they were no better than second-place until the finals scores were posted.

“We all did our best, but we never thought we won,’’ Lauren said.

“We thought we were somewhere in the top two, but we didn’t think we won,’’ McKenna added. “I think Viktor knew but he didn’t tell us. We didn’t expect it. We just thought that this couldn’t be happening.’’

It’s a long drive to Clemson, S.C., but the girls are excited.

“We didn’t think we would ever get the chance,’’ McKenna said. “I’m not nervous. It’s too much fun to get nervous.’’

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