AUBURN- Auburn Gymnastics Center girls gymnastics season got underway this weekend with stiff competition at the largest gymnastics meet of the year and in the end - despite some bobbles and falls - they came out shining with lessons learned.
“There was some tough competition, but we held our own,” said owner and coach, Natalie Otis.
More than 500 gymnasts from the Bay Area into the Foothills attended the two-day long event including 14 of Auburn Gymnastics Center’s girls.


Two excited competitors from Auburn Gymnastics center celebrate at the end of their level 5 competition. Both Kelcey Phillips (left) and Kaitlyn Woytus started the day with a few bobbles but pulled out great routines to finish the day.

The meet was hosted by the Northern California chapter of the National Association of Women's Gymnastics Judges Judging Association and is historically the first chance gymnasts get to perform in front of the panel of judges they are likely to see well into December when the season ends with a state-wide competition.
Levels that were evaluated this weekend were from 4 to 6 with 4 being at the beginning level of competition and 6 being the more advanced gymnastics.
Gymnastics is split into levels beginning with level 1 and ending with level 10. In house gymnastics competitions begin at level 2. Once a gymnast advances into level 4, local competitions begin.
Auburn Gymnastics Center has 10 level 4 gymnasts, three level 5 gymnasts and four level 6 gymnasts competing this season.
The level 4 gymnasts practice six hours a week while the level 6 gymnasts put in up to 12 hours a week to perfect the routines they will perform all season on the vault, bars, beam and floor.
Each gymnast competing at level 4 performs the same set of skills as every gymnast who is a level 4 across the nation. The same rule applies for level 5 and 6 gymnasts.
Once gymnasts advance to level 7 they may pick from different skills, which have been rated by difficulty by the United States Gymnastics Association, to create individual routines.
For more than 90 percent of the Auburn Gymnastics Center team the weekend competition was their first time performing their new routines at their level. While the level 5 and 6 gymnasts have previous seasons experience at lower levels to draw from, the level 4 gymnasts typically do not.
“We are very impressed by our new competitors. They got out there and presented great gymnastics under pressure and that is exactly what we train for,” Otis said. “Each of the girls wrote how nervous and scared they were in their meet journals before the competition but you could see a transformation as they finished each event. They were growing more confident with each performance and that is what we really want them to learn in this sport - confidence.”
Highlights from the level 4 meet included a score of 9.275 (out of a 10) on vault from Megan Leaman earning her the fourth place title over nearly 20 girls in the middle age division. Madison Candler gave a strong performance on floor earning an 8.9 and finishing third in the middle age division.
Additional top 10 performers from Auburn came from Finn Thomas and Julia Foster who finished in the top ten on bars in the younger age division.
“This is a huge accomplishment for a gymnast at their first meet,” Otis said.
The level 5 team is Kaitlyn Woytus, Kelcey Phillips and Katie Ring.
Woytus finished her first meet strong Saturday morning by dominating on vault and floor. She walked away with silver and a bronze respectively.


From left to right, top row, are Emily Benson, Finn Thomas, Megan Leaman, Madelyn Schildmeyer and Allyson Osborn. Bottom row from left to right is Julia Foster, Arieal Swindell, Elene Closson and Madison Candler.

“Kaitlyn (Woytus) had a rough start to her meet. She fell once on the bars and twice on beam. The meet could have gone two ways, she could have felt defeated and gave up or fought for the two events she had left,” Otis said. “She decided to fight and delivered some of the best gymnastics ever.”
Phillips had her best routine of the day on bars where she received an eighth place award – there were 15 girls in their age division. Ring was unable to attend the competition.
Auburn’s level 6 team is Janna Woodward, Devin VanBurkleo, Elizabeth Jordan and Kendall Sprowl.
Both Woodward and VanBurkleo competed in the level 6 younger age division. Woodward placed in the top ten on bars and beam while VanBurkleo placed in the top ten on vault, beam and floor. The top score from Woodward was on beam (8.1) while VanBurkleo’s top score was on floor (8.425).
Jordan and Sprowl competed in the middle age division where Sprowl delivered an impressive floor routine earning her an 8.65.
“It was beautiful,” Otis said.
Jordan started her season strong placing in the top five on three out of four events. Her personal highlight included a second place win on bars (8.55).
Jennifer Christenson, who is both a coach at Auburn Gymnastics Center and a Northern California certified judge, says this weekend’s meet was about the judges giving the gymnasts a base score to try and improve on throughout the season.
“We are going to be looking for improvements in their skills at each meet heading in to their zone and state competitions,” she said. “As a coach I sign the girls up for between four and six competitions between now and December to give them on opportunity to earn a qualifying score for their zone meet and what is a relief is that they all qualified for zone this weekend. We can now shift our focus off the minimum requirements of remembering routines and making skills to working on making all of their gymnastics bigger and better so we can get as many gymnasts as possible to the state competition and make Auburn proud of us.”
Christenson said she saw some very competitive gymnastics facilities over the weekend but confirms the Auburn team is “right up there.”
“We have a very good set of girls out there representing Auburn,” she said. “We are proud.”

Auburn Gymnastics Center is located in the DeWitt Center and has programs for special needs children, babies, toddlers, boys, girls and cheerleaders. Call (530) 823-2031 or go to for class information.