VALPARAISO | When Zel Rau took her 2-year-old daughter Marina to a mom-and-tot gymnastics class, it was the mother who left the gym in tears.
"I was crying. I called my husband and said, 'She's not listening ... I think there's something wrong with her,'" Zel said of her and Marina's first class. "She was just running around and doing her own thing."
Since then, Marina has gotten more with the program. Maybe it's the company she keeps as she and her friends, Olivia Costa and Molly Dieher, all of Valparaiso and all members of Indiana Elite Gymnastics in Wheeler, have made the leap together from Level 4 to Level 6, in part because of their performances at the Indiana USAG Level 4 State Meet held March 9-10 at Western High School in Kokomo.
Marina, 7, swept her age group with firsts in the vault (9.6), uneven bars (9.55), balance beam (9.6), floor exercise (9.65) and all-around (38.40).
Olivia, 8, earned golds on the uneven bars (9.65) and all-around (38.15), with seconds in the balance beam (9.475) and floor exercise (9.525), and third on the vault (9.5) in her age group.
Molly, 8, took firsts in the vault (9.675) and floor exercise (9.625), third all-around (37.575) and fourth on the balance beam (9.42) in her age group.
Each girl has their favorite event. Marina likes the uneven bars.
"It's because of the castaways and flyways," Marina said of the thrill of the aerial dismounts.
Molly likes the floor exercise because she enjoys doing standing back-tucks, or back flips from the standing position.
Olivia, who recorded the highest all-around score among all levels as a Level 3 competitor in last year's state meet, says the vault is her favorite event.
"I like to run," Olivia said. "It's fun running down (the runway) and taking off."
But not ever event is fun according to Olivia, Marina and Molly, who each list the balance beam as their least favorite.
"It's boring and it's hard," Olivia said, "and the falls can hurt."