The Eagle Rock High girls gymnastics team cruised through another year, winning its nine regular-season meets and sweeping another city championship by beating Wilson (143.05) and Grant (153) with a 160.55 performance.
It was an emotional moment for Coach Jan Fries after her squad won the city title at University High, but it was nothing new for Eagle Rock gymnastics.
For six years Eagle Rock has participated in the championships, placing third the first three years and winning the title for the last three. So this was just another great season for the 16 gymnasts and their eight-year coach Fries.
"The winning tradition started in '85 when all of the gymnasts were seniors," Fries said. "Before them the team had gone to the championships for three years and lost, so they wanted to win and did."
It's been a while since anyone in the 15-team Northern Valley League has beaten the Eagles. Eagle Rock has swept the league title for seven years.
"We haven't had anyone come close," Fries said. "We've been winning by 30 and 40 points.
"This year the closest meet was at the city championship against Grant, and that was by 7 1/2."
The last time the Eagles lost was four years ago at the championships when they were beaten by Franklin by 3/10 of a point.
This season the closest Eagle Rock came to being upset was against San Pedro a couple of weeks ago. The Eagles lost the vault , which put them behind by 6/10 of a point.
But they came back in the beam and floor events to triumph, 156.5 to 147.6.
"That was the first time all season that we even lost an event," said co-captain Cheryl Kochner. "San Pedro should feel privileged."
So how does Fries get all the good gymnasts?
Luck, she says, and the fact that strong local gymnastics programs abound.
"We're just very fortunate that in this area we have great gymnasts," Fries said. "They come out of the parks and recreation program and the YMCA.
"Then it's like a chain. The younger girls see the ones who are competing and they want to get into it."
That chain has given Fries--who's also a counselor at Eagle Rock--quite a supply of gymnasts.
This year she was blessed with a young crop along with the captains, Kochner and Kim Stapp, the only seniors.
"I've had an extremely talented group this year," Fries said. "And I'm really lucky because all but two are coming back next year."
Kochner and Stapp are the only two gymnasts in the city who have taken four trips to the city championships.
Kochner is an all-around competitor whose specialty is the bars. Despite torn ligaments in both ankles, she had a successful season and at the city meet managed one of her highest performances on the bar (8.9).
Stapp is a Class 2 gymnast who fell on the beam only once in four years.
The 5-3 18-year-old managed an impressive 8.65 in the floor event at the city meet.
"Kim has been phenomenal," Fries said. "She is one of the most loyal and terrific gymnasts I've ever seen."
But some of the best performances for the Eagles this season came from underclassmen.
Sophomore Jennifer Mitkschl is a Class 1 gymnast whose successful performances include the vault, beam and floor events.
At the individual city meet, she placed second in the floor event with an 8.85, and at the team meet she had an impressive 8.9 beam performance.
"She's just very all-around," Fries said. "She always manages to get excellent scores in all events."
Junior Tisa Ozar is another whose performance at the city meet contributed greatly to the Eagles' success. Ozar, a Class 1 vaulter, scored 8.75. She also scores high in Class 1 in floor events.
Others on the Eagle squad include sophomore Bobbi Dudley, a Class 2 gymnast who scored 8.8 in the vault at the city championships, and sophomore Danette Inzalaco, an all-around performer who scored high sevens and low eights all season.
With material like that, Fries and Eagle Rock are sure to have a successful gymnastics program for years to come.
"It may be an individual sport, but success brings them together," Fries said.
"You can see that success, tradition and pride all work with each other. At least they've worked for us."