When Pan American flight No. 66 leaves Dulles Airport at 5:20 p.m. today for Frankfurt, West Germany, nine girls from the Specs Gymnastics Club's advanced girls team will be aboard.
But they will be there only because of a last-second court order.
Until 8 p.m last night the trip, which the girls planned for 10 months and raised $10,000 in order to fund, appeared to be off because of a dispute between Specs owner-coach Paul A. Sindoris and the parents of the nine girls, who won the U.S. Gymnastics Federation Virginia State championships last month.
The dispute centered around club assistant Coach Martin Comiskey who was fired June 24 by Sindoris.At that point the parents decided to withdraw their children from the club and have them travel to Germany with Comiskey and his wife Gwynne.
But Sindoris and his wife Candy, who had the 13 plane tickets in their possession, refused to surrender them. The dispute ended in Fairfax County Circuit Court. Last night Judge Thomas J. Middleton Jr. signed an order giving the parents control of 11 of the 13 tickets.
"The parents now have to decide who to send along on the other two tickets," said Allan Evans, lawyer for the parents. "But we have notified the Sindorises that the girls intend to be on the plane."
The parents will meet this morning to decide who will use the two tickets originally bought for the Comiskeys.
Earlier the judge had ruled that four of the 13 tickets belonged to Sindoris' club, in effect eliminating the Comiskeys from the trip. The parents select two of their own number to make the trip, a compromise that Sindoris and his wife Candy had rejected prior to the judge's order.
"We're still not on the plane," Evans said, "but it looks like the judge may have worked this out so that these girls, (aged 14 to 16) can get this trip which they're entitled to."
The scenario which led to the near-cancellation of the trip was as follows:
Last August, after the Specs girls team had played host to a group of German girls in their Fairfax County homes and trained with them for two weeks, they were invited to Germany for a reciprocal visit.
The invitation was accepted and, in September, the parents of the nine girls met with Sindoris to discuss fund-raising plans. Eventually the parents formed a booster club. Through cake and cookie sales and later through benefit performances and a cart-wheel-athon (sponsors contributed two cents for each cart-wheel), the $10,000 was raised.
"Many of the programs were clubwide programs, not just involving the nine girls on the advanced team," Kenneth Weiner, lawyer for Sindoris explained.
Sindoris, meanwhile, had hired an assistant coach, Comiskey, who had been working with the girls.
In June, the relationship between Sindoris and Comiskey soured and Sindora fired Comiskey.
"The only reason we had stayed with the club was so the girls could work with Marty (Comisky)," one parent said. "Once he was out, we saw no reason to stay."
The parents called a meeting to discuss the situation and invited Comiskey in an attempt to figure a way to continue with the trip with him along. According to the parents, the Sindorises were angry when they heard about the meeting.
In a sworn affidavit entered into the court record, one parent, Mitty Tomlinson, stated that Candy Sindoris called her and demanded to know who had called the meeting.
According to the affidavit, the conversation grew heated and Mrs. Sindoris finally yelled, "You're full of. . ." and slammed down the phone. A moment later, Tomlinson said, Mrs. Sindoris called back and told her that her daughter had been expelled from the club.
"I never used obscenity, that's false," Candy Sindoris said yesterday. "We have very strict standards for ourselves and for our gymnasts. That kind of language is not tolerated."
The whole mater came to a head before Judge Middleton Wednesday. After 11 hours of testimony and arguments, Middleton came to a compromise ruling: The girls' tickets would be returned to them. But unless all 13 scheduled participants made the trip, no one would make the trip.
"That still left us without a victory," said Evans. "There was no way the Sindorises would go with the Comiskeys. We had to work out a compromise."
All day and night Thursday the two sides negotiated.The parents offered to send two of their number in place of the Comiskeys. The Sindorises refused.
"We wanted to follow the judge's decision," Paul Sindoris said yesterday. "He rulled that those other two tickets belonged to the club. If we were alone over there with the girls we could patch things up. But with parents along, things wouldn't get any better. If anything, they would get worse."
"I'm still trying to figure out why the Sindorises wouldn't compromise," Evans said. "The grown-ups have fought and fought and of course it's the girls who were getting hurt."
"The girls got caught in the middle," Paul Sindoris said. "I still hope they come back to the club. I called one parent today to tell them the girls are welcome back and I'd like to point them for the World Games in Texas in December. I've worked with most of them five to seven years. I don't just want to see my best gymnasts go 'proof' because of this."