Gymnasts Samantha Peene and Raegan Rutty competed last week at the Junior Pan American Gymnastics Championships in Sucre, Bolivia.

Peene placed 24th and Rutty placed 27th in a field that boasted the top junior talent from North, South and Central America.

While Canada, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil dominated in the medal standings, Cayman placed well among the smaller countries, just behind gymnasts from Colombia and El Salvador and ahead of Chile and Costa Rica.

Record scores for Cayman

The pair posted three new top scores for Cayman’s gymnastics books. Peene earned a Junior National record on floor with an 11.45 and a record all-around score of 41.65. Rutty also brought home a Junior National record in vault, receiving a score of 12.5.

The competition took place Sept. 12-18.

Peene, 15, is a student at Cayman International School and was a member of the team that represented the Cayman Islands at the 2015 Inter-Island Games, earning a silver medal on bars.

Raegan Rutty, Coach Michael Malin and Samantha Peene
Raegan Rutty, Coach Michael Malin and Samantha Peene

“Stepping onto the floor the first day of training was intimidating,” Peene said, “there were seniors who had already competed in the Olympics and some of the juniors had start values higher than many of the routines performed in Rio.

“Over the course of the week in Sucre, we trained with these athletes, got to know them and became more confident and inspired. Meeting and competing with these athletes from all around the Americas was an amazing experience that I will never forget.”

Rutty, 14, appreciated the experience of representing Cayman in Bolivia. “I enjoyed meeting all the gymnasts from the other countries. It was humbling to see [how] the other gymnasts competed and to learn what we need to work on to become more competitive on the international level.”

Prior to the Junior Pan American Gymnastics Championship, Rutty competed for Cayman at Gymnix 2015 and 2016, and the 2015 Inter-Island Games.

Competitors and coaches pose for a photograph at the Junior Pan American Gymnastics Championships.
Competitors and coaches pose for a photograph at the Junior Pan American Gymnastics Championships.

Head coach Kelley Paz and coach Michael Malin, who traveled with the team to Bolivia, were pleased with the results.

Malin said, “The girls performed well under the pressure of their first big international meet, particularly under tough conditions at an altitude of over 9,000 feet in Sucre. They made a few mistakes, and there’s always room for improvement.

“We will be looking to improve the scores in three weeks time when they compete at the Junior Commonwealth Championships.”

Next up for the young gymnasts and Coach Malin will be the Junior Commonwealth Gymnastics Championships in Walvis Bay, Namibia on Oct. 8-16.