HELENA — The Montana State Gymnastics Girls Championships got underway at the Carroll College PE Center on Friday.
The opening day of the three-day tournament, hosted by the Helena Athletic Club, consisted of two sessions – the Level 6 and the Levels 8-10.
There are more than 500 athletes from around the state competing in the tournament with berths to the regional tournament at stake.
Among the top local competitors is Audrey Bloomquist, 18, of HAC's host Capital City Gymnastics Club. Bloomquist, a Level 9 gymnast, opened the meet with scores of 9.05 on the uneven parallel bars,and a 9.10 on the balance beam.
"My move on the bars is a pirouette from the top bar into a bail, and my sequence on the beam is a back hand spring layout," said Bloomquist, who is a senior at Capital High.
Entering the meet, she is a 6-time regional qualifier, and a 2-time national qualifier. Bloomquist also shines in track & field for the Bruins, a sport at which she has garnered a scholarship to the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.
She said her favorite Olympic gymnast is 2008 Olympic champion Shawn Johnson.
"I like her because she has great sportsmanship, and how she carries herself on the floor," Bloomquist said.
Gym406 club's Mikelle Ballard partakes in the Level 10 division. A 17-year old junior at Capital, she kicked off her meet with a score of 8.275 points on the bars.
"My best move is the Deltchev," said Ballard, referring the half-turn into a forward salto on the top bar, made famous by Bulgaria's Stoyan Deltchev. "I love flying through the air and feeling free."
Ballard, who entered the meet with five regional qualifications under her belt, verbally committed to the Utah State gymnastics program.
Gabi Baucus, 16, a Level 8 for host Capital City Gymnastics, opened the tourney with a 8.850 on the bars, and a 8.40 on the beam. Also a Capital junior, her favorite move on the beam is a Switch Leap, when the athlete leaps forward with a leg change to a cross split.
Baucus, who has qualified for regionals multiple times, and Ballard both listed Laurie Hernandez, the 2016 silver medalist on the balance beam, as their favorite international gymnast.
Another local Level 9 athlete in the meet is Reese Esponda of Gym406. The 10-year-old Central School fourth-grader started the meet off with an 8.725 on the bars.
"My best move on the bars is a double back flip," Esponda said.
At the recent Missy Marlowe Wasatch Open in Salt Lake City, she earned the all-around title, powered by event victories on the bars and beam.
Esponda said her favorite international gymnast is Simone Biles, "because she's so powerful." Biles captured four gold medals at the 2016 Olympics.
The State Meet continues on at 8 a.m. Saturday, including Levels 3, 4, 2-5 and 7. The last session begins at 6 p.m.
NOTE: For complete results, visit meetscoresonline.com