For 150 young and tiny female gymnasts, yesterday's competition at Yorktown High School was Rung 1 on the sport's development ladder.
For the clusters of parents dutifully positioned on bleachers for the two-day Specs Virginia Invitational, the event was of equal importance, but not for the usual pressure-packed reasons. Most of the girls were competing in a large meet for the first time, all were beginners and nearly all committed their share of slips, slides and various technical blunders.
"What you're seeing today are typical beginners," said Paul Syndoris, meet organizer and coach of the Specs club, a 1,000-member Northern Virginia organization. "They don't execute the routines right but you've got to remember that those routines are hard to do."
At about 9 a.m. the competition began, when the 150 girls from 35 teams on the East Coast kicked off colorful warmups. The routines performed also were colorful. Each girl was competing for 30 of a possible 40 points which would help her advance to the intermediate level.
Many turned in the required scores; many didn't.
"It's my first big meet and I can't believe I did so well," said 11-year old Kim Schorer, whose 31 points qualified her for an important state tournament.
For 10-year-old Kathy Eddowes the floor exercises were the toughest part. She scored only 4.6. "That's pretty low for me," she said.
For the parents it was a day of waiting and trying to locate children in an ocean of leotards. "I'm worried for Tammy," said Linda Melton. "She's never nervous, but I'm nervous she might get hurt."
One father, Dave Schorer, said, "It's just like watching my son play ball. Kim's out there because she loves it. There's a lot of room to do well and not be a star."
"I try not to go to the gym to watch Courtney," said Diane McNaught. "I've watched her fall and get up again and fall and get up. Falling gets to me."
When the beginners' program ended late in the afternoon, their parents gave way to the parents of the intermediates.
The event will be resumed today with competition for advanced levels; 15-year-old Alicia Kovalick will go after her fifth straight overall meet title.