Erin Ostrove began tumbling and flipping at the age of 4 and gymnastics quickly became a very serious endeavor for her at a young age.
At the heart of the Springbrook junior's success both then -- at Jackson Road Elementary School in Silver Spring -- and now has been Blue Devils coach Jack Leonard.
Leonard, who has been a gymnastics coach in the county since 1973, got Ostrove rolling as her elementary school physical education teacher and she has not stopped since.
"At recess he helped me on bars," recalled Ostrove, now 16, of Leonard.
Nowadays, Leonard is Ostrove's coach at Springbrook and he still helps her on those uneven bars all these years later. Last Tuesday, the talented junior finished runner-up in the all-around at the Maryland championships for the second year in a row, scoring 37.025 for the four events. Only teammate Decelia Willacy, a Level 10 national-caliber competitor, scored higher (37.45).
Ostrove, however, did garner one honor all to herself. In a display of consistency, Ostrove was the only gymnast at states to score above 9.0 on every event (9.1 vault, first place; 9.25 bars, third place; 9.275 beam, fourth place; 9.4 floor, second place tie).
"I didn't even know that until I read [a newspaper] article," said Ostrove, who also finished second to Willacy at the county championships May 4. "It's a really big honor for me. That makes me feel really, really good. It shows me how much I've improved over the years."
Bethesda-Chevy Chase claimed its first state title by tallying a four-event total of 141.80 points to knock off second-place Walter Johnson by 5.67 points. The Barons were led to their first title in four years of competition by sophomore Shana Karp's third-place all-around finish (36.125 points).
Willacy, a returning All-Met, won her third straight all-around title with a four-event score of 37.45.
Ostrove was a serious club gymnast at the nationally renown Hills Gymnastics club in Gaithersburg during her elementary and middle school years and rose all the way to Level 9 (two levels below Elite) in eighth grade. Then she decided to quit the club.
"There was so much pressure. I hated going to practices. I just had enough," said Ostrove, who had surgery on both feet in fourth grade, a bone removed from each ankle shortly thereafter and suffered a fractured vertebrae when she was in fifth grade.
Ostrove struggled when she joined Springbrook's squad as a freshman but has come on strong in the past two years -- she recently posted a 9.7 on beam at the county championships.
Her goal for next season? To end her high school career as a county champion.
"Yeah, that's really my goal," she said. "When I did club, I was a state champion for Level 6 and Level 8 but I haven't been up there in places until this year. It would just show [me] how much I've worked since my freshman year, where I was getting all around [scores] of 30.6, to [now] getting all-arounds of 37. If I could get the county title that would really seal it for me."
County title or not, the man that knew little Erin since her days at Jackson Road will always be proud of her effort.
"She's just learned so fast [since her freshman year] and got so strong, and her desire never waned at all," said Leonard.
"Knowing her since kindergarten, that was so satisfying."