“It’s huge, huge, huge for us,” said Avetyan who was named director of the program after working solely as a coach for eight years. “To get there, it’s really hard. It’s really big.”
But if anyone involved is more excited than Avetyan, it’s her students, especially the girls, who range from 9 to 11 years old and have embraced their sport to the point where, collectively, they spend about 65 hours per week in the gym.
All three girls specialize in rhythmic gymnastics, a ballet-like, choreographed floor routine in which the athlete maneuvers an “apparatus,” like a ribbon, ball or rope, with their hands.
At a recent afternoon practice Amanda Kurtyan, 9, pranced across the gym floor, twirling a pink ribbon as she spun pirouettes on her toes.
“The trick is to move your wrist really fast so you don’t let the ribbon touch the ground,” Amanda said. “The judges hate that.”
Seconds later, Erica Der Mesropian, 11, tossed a volleyball-sized orb about 15 feet into the air, executed a crisp somersault and landed in a split just in time to cradle the falling ball in her elbows.
Just as Erica caught the ball, Natalie Bazikyan, 9, sprinted across the gym floor, launching into a mid-air split, then swinging a short jump-rope under her legs twice before landing.
“That’s the tough part,” Natalie said.
Their routines may be tough, but parents say the girls want nothing more than to be in the gym as often as possible.
“She pushes me — I don’t push her,” Dominic Kurtyan said of his daughter, Amanda.