Suffolk gymnasts’ paths will lead to state later in May

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

If they didn’t look so different, you might think that Ashleigh Christopherson and Alyssa Chirico are the same gymnast.

Both started on the sport right around their kindergarten years, inspired by watching the it on television. Though they hoped to one day backflip their way to fame and fortune, both were forced to start off with the most basic of gymnastic moves, like back tucks, back rolls, front rolls, cartwheels and handstands.


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Over the next few years, they became two of the main reasons why Triple T’s Gymnastics Center on Godwin Boulevard is garnering a reputation as one of the area’s top schools for kids to learn. And earlier this year, the girls made one more mark on their list of mutual accomplishments; they each qualified to compete at state competition later in May at Virginia Wesleyan College in Virginia Beach.

&uot;I saw gymnastics on TV when I was about four, and it looked cool, the flips and flexibility,&uot; said Ashleigh, 11, a student at Oakland Elementary School. &uot;I thought it was a lot of fun.&uot;

Alyssa’s career started at the Gates County Community Center, then moved to the Suffolk YMCA and on to Triple T’s. &uot;I started learning better things, like flipping with no hands,&uot; said the 12-year-old Forest Glen Middle School student. &uot;I was afraid that I was going to fall on my head, but I didn’t. It feels like you’re flying or floating. It’s like you’re on a roller coaster, except it’s a little slower.&uot;

To qualify for states, the girls had to finish with scores above 33 (they compete in four different events, with 10 being the maximum score in each) at their respective sectional competition. For Ashleigh, the quest began last February at the Judge’s Cup event in Chesapeake. &uot;I’m not as nervous at practice as I was at competition,&uot; she said. &uot;You get judged, and there’s a lot of people watching you.&uot;

After her first go-round on the uneven bars, that wasn’t a problem. &uot;I knew I could make it, because I got off to a good start,&uot; she said. After performing on the vault, floor and beam (her personal favorite), Ashleigh came in with a score of 33.5 – just enough to move to the next level.

Alyssa had to go slightly farther to compete in her event; the sectional was held in early April in Arlington. Fortunately, her results were nearly identical to her teammate’s.

&uot;I was scared,&uot; she said. &uot;Really nervous. I thought I would fall off the beam. But I thought about doing well, and I breezed right through.&uot; She certainly did, breezing all the way to a 33.574 score for her second trip to Virginia competition.

&uot;I’m still surprised,&uot; she said. &uot;But I’m not as afraid as I was (my first time). I’m just going to have fun.&uot;

At least three nights a week, the girls work out at Triple T’s. &uot;I think I’ll do good,&uot; said Ashleigh, warming up for her next practice. &uot;I did really good at sectionals, so I’m really looking forward to state.&uot;