SAN DIEGO — This year's San Diego Section gymnastics championship will feature more than tumbles, somersaults and flashy floor routines.
There also will be a fair amount of arguing about the Grossmont League's selection of Eileen Maul, the two-time defending all-around section champion from Santana High School.
Shawn Wirth, gymnastics coach at Torrey Pines High, said Maul should not be allowed to compete in today's section championship--which begins at 10 a.m. at Torrey Pines--because she did not compete in the league championship.
Maul sprained her right wrist three weeks ago during practice. She hasn't been able to practice or compete since, and missed the Grossmont League championship last Saturday.
Steve Butcher, Santana coach, found out that he could waive Maul into the section meet on the approval of the league's vice principals and athletic directors. They voted, 8-1, to award Maul 35 points in overall competition at last week's event, even though she did not compete.
Each league must send at least four gymnasts from each event to the section championships. If more than four gymnasts score 35 or more points (or a 9.0 on individual events), they automatically advance to the section final. Maul's entrance into the finals was contingent on at least four of the league's competitors scoring 35. Five did, and the league will have six representatives.
"The league's vice principals and athletic directors approved that Eileen Maul be waivered into CIF (sction finals)," said Kathy Johnson, Mount Miguel coach. "There was no way we were going to bump anybody out. That's not fair."
Maul was aware before the league meet that if four or more gymnasts scored at least 35 points, she would be awarded 35 points.
Johnson added that although the process of waiving competitors into the finals has been done in track, this is the first time it has been done in gymnastics in the section.
Wirth believes that because Maul didn't compete in the league finals, her presence at the section meet would violate a San Diego Section rule that the top four gymnasts from each league championship advance to the section final.
But Jan Jessop, assistant section commissioner, said the league decides which gymnasts advance to the final.
"If a league decides to award 35 points to a gymnast, that's up to them," Jessop said. "They are saying that they are willing to allow automatic entries.
"If they want to allow people to earn points who didn't compete in the league final, that's their business. We just say that you are allowed (a minimum of) four entries, tell us who they are."
The only event Maul can win a medal in is the all-around, which is the total score of all the compulsory and optional events for the bars, vault, beam and floor exercise.
If Maul finishes first in the bars, or any other event, she will gather only all-around points. The Southern Section champion is determined by the total points in all events.
Wirth said she and Steve Levy, Mt. Carmel athletic director, plan to introduce measures at the section's board of managers' meeting June 4 that would not allow a gymnast to advance to the section championship without competing in the league championship.
Wirth was upset Friday after learning that gymnasts who tied for fourth place in the Palomar League championship would not be allowed to advance to the section championship.
In the balance beam, Debbie Devore (Poway), Tristie Graetz (Mt. Carmel) and Wendy Ballou (Mt. Carmel) each tied for fourth with scores of 8.15. In the uneven bars, Julie Kawaski (Torrey Pines) and Laurie Russell (Mt. Carmel) tied for fourth with an 8.8.
Wirth learned Friday that she and Levy would have to determine a fourth-place finisher. They used the all-around scores, although some gymnasts didn't compete in every event.
In the bars, Graetz advanced, because she had the highest all-around score, 34.95. Laurie Russell advanced in the uneven bars with her score of 34.85.