By MIKE ANTHONY
In mid-April, Statesboro is normally consumed by baseball, spring football, and high school soccer’s push for the postseason. But this weekend, a pair of local girls will be flying higher than anyone in those three sports.
Today and Saturday, Mary Claire Wolfe and Carmen Derriso will be in action in Mobile, Ala. as they take part in the Level 6-8 Region 8 competition sanctioned by USA Gymnastics. The meet covers traditional events (floor, bars, vault and balance beam) and will feature hundreds of gymnasts from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Derriso, 9, and Wolfe, 12, can be found at America’s Finest gym on most days and the bid to regionals is the result of that hard work.
“We’re very proud of our girls,” coach Kristy Glenn said. “For these two to make it this far is quite an accomplishment. But we’re proud of all our girls here. From levels 2-9, we had all of our girls qualify for their respective state competitions.”
The success of the duo and the overall growth of America’s Finest is a dream realized for coach and gym owner Adrian “Audi” Coman. A gymnast and coach in his native country of Romania, Coman began coaching at America’s Finest eight years ago and has owned the establishment for the last five.
Coman and his coaching staff have demonstrated the pedigree to prepare their students to compete against the best and brightest, but the overall joy of the sport is what drives him and what shapes the gym. There are over 200 members of America’s Finest, spanning nearly all ages and covering everything from recreational exercises to the highest levels of competition.
“It’s a hard sport,” Coman said. “But it’s also a fun sport. We want our girls to train and advance, but it’s also about a healthy lifestyle. Healthy mind, healthy body.”
For most girls in the program, the goal is to advance a level each year. Coman and his staff push their students to attain those goals, but he cites the internal drive of those like Derriso and Wolfe as the key factor for success in a competition setting.
“It takes hours and hours and hours,” Coman said. “A lot of girls have talent. What impresses me is how much they push themselves to always do better.”
Regionals will be the pinnacle of the season for Derriso and Wolfe as that is the farthest that their respective skill levels go in terms of competitions. The gym will send its level 3-5 competitors to their state meet next week to close out the competition season.
From there, America’s Finest will shift into its summer programs. Several camps are scheduled, with introductory and recreational classes available for both boys and girls.
“We have a lot offer in our summer camps,” Glenn said. “They’re a week each and will hopefully lead to kids joining the program. We’re unique in that everything in our program goes from month to month, so it’s a great option for kids to try out and hopefully get into it.”