Lakewood 1998 Team
In 1990 a new team emerged from Northwest Tampa, Florida.  Tim Keckler took over the program in 1987, and by 1990 had built a championship team.  His team won four championships between 1990 and 1995. 

In 1993 the number of competitors had grew steadily.  For the first time the competition was held over 4 days.  The championship division was broken into junior and senior age groups.  The Developmental division at this time was Levels 7 and 8, and the Novice division was Levels 5 and 6.

Each year the number of divisions grew, until by the late 1990s these were the divisions:

  •              Championship (Levels 9 to elite)
  •              Developmental (Level 8)
  •              Novice (Level 7)
  •              Level 6
  •              Level 5

These divisions would remain until 2007, when Level 4s were invited to attend for the first time.

In the northwest corner of the country Coach Brian Muenz was slowly developing a strong gymnastics program at the Tacoma, and then Lakewood Ys.  He began coach in 1978 at the McKinley Y, and moved to Tacoma and started as a boy’s coach in 1988.  Ten years later, his team from Lakewood (part of the Tacoma family of Ys) won their first championship title.  For Brian this was his most memorable experience as a coach.  “It was a very close competition between the top three teams so no one really knew who had won.” 

For gymnast Melissa Brodily it was her senior year, and the 7th time she had attended Y Nationals.  An experience she’ll never forget.  For Megan Erikson, who was the Floor Champion in 1998, the inaugural win for the team was her best accomplishment in the sport of gymnastics.   Shirla Choy, who was the National Champion in 1998 and 2000, remembers the years as some of the best in her life.  Her teammates became her second family.  And Kim Lewis, who attended Y Nationals 6 times until 2001, remembers in 1998, “smiling so hard for so long my face got really sore”.

The Flushing YMCA won the team championship twice in the 1990s, in 1994 and in 1999.  The backbone of their team was Liz Kotler, who competed in more Y Nationals than any other gymnast.  Between 1989 and 2006 she missed only two championships, in 1992 for a set of exams, and in 2004 because she was pregnant.  She attended in 2005 several months after having a baby girl.  For Liz, her best memories were winning the Team Championship, even though she was the National Champion four times.

" I have really enjoyed being a YMCA gymnast.  To be honest, there are so many good memories; it is difficult to decide which one is my most memorable.  Winning the team championship, both in 1994 and 1999, are right up there on my list.  They were both very different experiences.  In 1994, we were a very young and somewhat inexperienced team.  We went into the competition thinking we might have a chance but not really believing that it was truly possible… What a nice surprise it was to be called up first.   Then in 1999, we were a veteran team.  Several of us had been on the 1994 team, so we knew what we needed to do in order to win.  We also had some external motivation, we had 5 seniors that year and this was their last chance to do it.  When I talk about these things I can still feel the pressure and excitement I felt that week.  I have never experienced anything quite like it in any other competition.”