HELENA -- The annual Montana State Cup gymnastics meet concluded Sunday at the Carroll College PE Center, with perennial powerhouse Lone Mountain Gymnastics garnering the lion's share of the top placings.
Bozeman's LMG captured the combined championship with 112.45 points, and placed in the top-10 of the combined standings in four other categories. There were over 300 gymnasts from 10 different clubs across the state participating in the two-day meet, which is a separate competition from the state championship.
The two Helena clubs, host Mount Helena Gymnastics and Helena Athletic Club, also had several high team and individual efforts.
Among LMG's wins were the Session 1, Level 3; Session 3, L5; and Session 5, L6.
"All the girls performed well, and did a good job not only sharpening their routines, but also improving on their new skills," related LMG coach Josh Burnham, who directs the state's largest gymnastic club, with 100 members, ages 6-17.
Burnham singled out the performances of Lily Millington and Sarah Rafferty. Millington, 13, competes at L-8, while Rafferty, 10, is in L-4.
"Lily was probably our standout of the weekend," Burnham said. "She hit all four events, meaning she stuck it with great routines, and won the all-around.
"And Sarah did really well, she was first in the all-around with 37.2 points, and also won the bars with a 9.65."
Burnham, a former gymnast, has been coaching the Bozeman club for 22 years, and said he's still very passionate about what he does.
"Gymnasts are a unique breed of people to coach, and we really enjoy the smiles they give us," the LMG skipper said.
Teams claiming multiple wins included Hamilton's Velocity Gymnastics Academy (VGA) in the Session 3, L2, and S-4, L7; and Billings Gymnastics School (BGS) in the S-2, L4.
Following LMG in the the combined standings were runner-up VGA (S-3, L2), and BGS (S-2, L4) in third. Rounding out the top-10 were LMG (S-2, L4) in fourth, LMG (S-5, L6), LMG (S-3, L2), Missoula's Mismo (S-2, L4), Flathead Gymnastics Association (S-1, L3), VGA (S-4, L7), and in 10th place, LMG (S-3, L5).
Host Mount Helena placed third in the Session 4, multiple division, and fifth in the S-4, L-7.
"We did really good in the optionals, we placed third as a team, and that's the best optionals we've done in a long time," MHG coach denny Allen said. "Mikelle Ballard hit everything for the first time, this was her best as a Level 10.
"The girls are doing way more difficult skills. Reese Esponda (9, L8) and Lily Bohler (13, L8) really shined; Reese is going to be a star."
Ballard, 15, thought her performances went "really well," with high marks 9.075 on the vault, and 33.975 for all-around. The Capital High sophomore said her favorite event is the uneven parallel bars, because she "likes swinging ... I just think it's fun." Her best move is a Deltchev, named after Bulgarian Olympic champion Stoyan Deltchev.
"That's when I'm at the top, and I cross my right hand over the bar," Ballard explained. "When I swing through the bottom I do a half turn, straddle my legs, do a front flip and catch the lower bar."
HAC placed third in Session 4, Level 7.
"This was a good season opener for us in Montana," said Helena Athletic Club coach Laura Snellman, after they competed in Portland last weekend. "It was a solid effort, the girls keep getting better."
Snellman said her individual standouts included Audrey Bloomquist, who captured the L9 all-around, vault and beam titles; and Lexi McGrath, who placed fourth in the L7 all-around.
"I would say my weekend highlight is competing with and watching my teammates, and seeing the potential our team has to be successful this season," Bloomquist said.
For complete results, go to www.meetscoresonline.com.