The North-South Invitational Gymnastics Meet at Lake Braddock was instituted five years ago to develop friendships among teams from different areas of the state. Year after year that goal is met, but the meet also offers one of the stiffest competitions of the season and is usually an accurate gauge of how tough the Virginia AAA state meet will be.

North Stafford has been mentioned over and over among Virginia AAA coaches and gymnasts this season. The Wolverines had lost to Courtland earlier in the season and had not yet faced the likes of West Springfield or Lake Braddock, but there was a rumor that they would be tough. A fourth-place finish in the Commonwealth District Meet last year did not put North Stafford on the list of 'teams to beat,' but with seven promising freshmen, including two well-known club gymnasts, and two top returners, coach Wendy Payne was promising her team would be tough.

The rumor turned out to be true and the top teams learned of the Wolverines strength first hand as the young squad won the team title with 107.55 points, and had three all-around competitors place in the 18-team meet at Lake Braddock last weekend. West Springfield followed in second, with defending state champion Lake Braddock in third. Commonwealth District rival Courtland was fourth.

The Wolverines' Mindy Berg proved to be a pleasant surprise in the all-around competition. The petite sophomore scored a career-high 36.35 points to better the field of 42 all-around performers, winning the balance beam and uneven bars, finishing third in the vault and sixth in the floor exercise.

"I never thought I would do this well. This is the best I've ever done," Berg said. "I just wanted to do my best."

Freshmen Teri Fleming and Tanya Deane were also very strong. Fleming, who was third in the all-around, scored a 9.05 on the floor for a third place finish and won a sixth-place ribbon on the beam. Deane finished sixth in the all-around after winning the floor and finishing second behind Berg on the bars.

Robinson's Kari Ellison had an exceptional meet as she finished second all-around. Ellison's second-place beam, fourth-place vault and bars and ninth place floor exercise gave her 35.9 points.

Lake Braddock, the defending state champion, was missing its two top performers for the meet and finished third with 103.75. Standouts Misty Minger, last year's all-around runner-up, and Shannon Propps, a top competitor at the state meet, were both absent from the meet. But Marchelle Yoch helped the Bruins to continue their winning form.

"I had a hint that {North Stafford} was very good," said Lake Braddock Coach Anne Ripley. "I am thrilled that my young, {more} inexperienced gymnasts carried on with poise, looking like a Lake Braddock team."

Yoch, a sophomore, was seventh in the all-around competition and had a second-place finish in the floor exercise and eighth place on the uneven bars. Franci Niles and Wendy Rodenberg were fourth and fifth respectively on the balance beam.

West Springfield, the state runners-up last year, beat out Northern District rival Lake Braddock for second place. Sophomores Rachel Griffin and Lee Anne Revell tied for fourth in the all-around. Revell took the vault title with a 9.3 and tied with Griffen for eighth place on the balance beam. Griffen also had a fifth place finish in the floor exercise and seventh on the bars. Leigh Ullman scored a 9.0 on the floor for fourth place.

In previous North-South meets, Lake Braddock has won the team title twice and been runner-up twice. West Springifield won last year's meet by .10 over the Bruins. Courtland was close behind in third. Scores are also tabulated between teams from the northern and southern parts of the state. The North has never lost the competition and continued its streak last week 856.05-854.4.