BURBANK— Hanging from the rafters in the Golden State Gymnastics gym are a number of banners. The banners bear the names, events and scores of athletes who have captured state championships or better for the facility's competitive team.
The banners serve as motivation to the current Golden State Gymnastics athletes, many of whom see it as an ultimate goal to have their name lofted high among the most successful gymnasts who have been produced from the gym.
"It seems like getting that banner with their name on it is the most important thing in the world to them," said Nicole Langevin, the program's head coach. "When they win a state title, you want to hear them say they are proud that all of their hard work has paid off or that they're pound of their accomplishment, but no. All they want to know is 'When is my banner coming?' It is that important to them."
One of the gym's athletes who knows what it feels like to have her name on a banner hanging for all to see is 11-year-old Samantha Nelson. Nelson captured a title last season in the Level 5 uneven bars.
"It feels good to see my name up there, even though it's kind of covered by a light," Nelson said. "But I was proud because a lot of people have won it for floor [exercise] and [balance] beam, and to win for bars is special to me. It's cool to have it up there."
Langevin has been coaching at Golden State Gymnastics since 2002, when she started with 98 athletes. Since then, the program has grown exponentially and now boasts 700 gymnasts, including a competitive boys' team.
The coach still remembers the first state championship banner under her tutelage, that coming in 2006 when Lily Pollack won a title in floor exercise.
"That was special because that was our first state championship," said Langevin, who said she relies heavily on coaches Denise Pearlman, Colden Raisher and Toya Ballinger to help the programs run smoothly. "That banner hung by itself and we were just waiting to add more. Then the next year we had two champions and we had said we can't not commemorate them, so since then it has been our thing to honor anyone with a state championship or above with a banner."
Langevin has had to clear a lot of space in the rafters, along with ordering a slew of new banners, as Golden State Gymnastics athletes have enjoyed an impressive haul this season. Most recently in the Southern California USA Gymnastics State Championships in November in Long Beach, athletes from the gym brought home seven state titles, making it 10 championships for the gym this year — which included a regional title.
Golden State Gymnastics, located on Keystone Street, a stone's throw from the Empite Center, is truly a local gym, as all but one state champion is from Burbank.
With a dedication to the sport that sometimes has them training for 24 hours a week, Langevin said she is proud to see all of her athletes' preparation and work pay off in the form of state titles.
"These girls work very hard for this and it takes up a great deal of their time," she said. "But this is what they love to do and their dedication is pretty amazing. They are willing to put in the hard work to get better and you see it has paid off."
Elizabeth Switzer, 13, is the lone athlete to capture a regional championship. Competing in the USA Gymnastics Region 1 Championships in April in Phoenix, Switzer bested competitors from California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah to capture the floor exercise with a score of 9.65.
Being one of a host of champions from the gym is something that Switzer relishes.
"Seeing so many girls win and do well kind of inspires me," said Switzer, who took up gymnastics at the relatively old age of 8, but has enjoyed her share of success in a short time. "It just makes me want to work harder and to do all that I can to be the best that I can be.
"It's just great to be a part of a place like this; a place I can come and be with all of my friends. It's a place where I can have fun. I just like everything about it. I love going to competitions and I also love winning."
At Golden State Gymnastics, Langevin and the other coaches and administrators try and make it more of a family environment for the athletes. Along with the competition teams, the facility offers less competitive gymnastics classes and an array of other programs for the less-serious boys and girls.
"It's like we're all a big family," said Emma O'Mara, who won a state title in the Level 8 floor exercise with a 9.6. "I think that we all pull for one another and we all care for one another and that helps us a lot. Nicole is like a second mom to me and that's why I like coming here so much. It is just a great atmosphere."
With the program growing and more talented athletes signing up to compete for Golden State Gymnastics, Langevin said she is expecting the gym to have continued success.
"This year is the most state titles we have ever won," she said. "It is just so great for the athletes. And we want to just keep going. We just have a great group."
Eight athletes from Golden State Gymnastics captured 10 state championships and a regional title.
Sophia Maliwanag: balance beam (9.7) and floor exercise (9.8)
Ava Johnson: balance beam (9.775)
Hope Ramirez: uneven bars (9.65)
Faith Ramirez: floor exercise (9.725)
Riley Jenkins: vault (9.4), floor exercise (9.725), and coveted all-around (37.475)
Samantha Nelson: floor exercise (9.7)
Emma O'Mara: Floor Exercise (9.6)
Elizabeth Switzer: floor exercise (9.65)