Gymnastics meet expands

18th annual competition moves to convention center

Baltimore & Region


Linda Maglio's eyes didn't blink. Her 16-year-old daughter and promising gymnast, Tara, was about to begin her floor exercise and missing a single flip was unacceptable.

"I can't breathe," she nervously admitted, as her right leg and hand shook.

More than 1,300 girls from several states came to the Baltimore Convention Center this weekend to compete in the 18th annual Christmas on the Chesapeake gymnastics meet.

The competition that ended yesterday was sponsored in part by Docksiders Gymnastics in Millersville. The meet featured girls from 57 clubs, some flirting with Olympic dreams while others, some as young as 6, simply competed for their love of the sport.

Bob Ouellette, the owner of Docksiders Gymnastics, said the meet was moved to the convention center for the first time because so many people were competing. He said organizers wanted to persuade national gymnastic officials to bring more big events to Maryland.

"Hosting large competitions is a steppingstone to hosting a national championship," he said.

Jan Greenhawk, national administrative chairman for USA Gymnastics' women's program and a judge at the meet, said the tournament is good for the state and region.

"The kids are magnificent," Greenhawk said. "You watch these girls do the kinds of things, as young as they are, that are way beyond what most of us did when we did gymnastics. It's energizing to us as judges."

Some girls, such as Docksiders gymnasts Meagan Rotondo and Melissa Feick, could only sit and watch in admiration. Meagan, 11, was scheduled to compete this weekend until she fractured a bone in practice.

She said she should be ready to compete again in about a month. Melissa, 5, said she was just happy to be at the meet. "It's my favorite sport," she said.

Meagan said she gives tips to her young friend. "Stay focused," she'll advise Melissa. "And think of having fun."

Parents were transfixed. Tara Maglio's father recorded his daughter's every move. The recording wasn't only for family memories - it was in preparation for Tara's college applications.

Tara, a member of New Jersey-based Perfect Balance, and her family planned to create a video of her best gymnastic performances this season and to send copies of the tape to colleges with the hopes that her near-perfect balance will land her a college scholarship.

As Tara finished the routine yesterday, her mother held her hands close to her mouth. Then she broke her daughter's rule: No yelling during competition.

"I embarrass her," Linda Maglio sighed. "She's a teenager."

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