A record number 840 gymnasts are in Tyler this week for the Ninth Annual Rose City Classic Gymnastics Invitational at UT Tyler's Herrington Patriot Center.

Competitors have come to Tyler from as far as Colorado, making this year's classic one of the most competitive yet.

"It's been growing and (word is spreading) that people like coming out here," Texas East Gymnastics coach and meet director Martin Parsley said of the turnout. "People like the hospitality of East Texas and like the competition."

And it was one of those visitors who took top honors Friday night in the showcase Level 10 event.

Rachael Flam of Stars Gymnastics out of Houston was the combined all-around champion, thanks to a 38.350 total.

Host Texas East Gymnastics out of Tyler grabbed second, third and fourth with Drew Watson (Auburn commit), Sarah Shaffer (Arkansas commit) and Sidney Dukes (Kentucky signee) delighting their hometown fans.

"There are some pretty good kids here this week (and it showed tonight)," Parsley said. "Six of them were at the Nastia Cup last weekend at AT&T Stadium (in Arlington). We are trying to ramp up to get our girls ready (for the state meet). We are pretty close to where we want to be.

"We've finished runner-up at state three of the last five years and we also have regionals after that."

Texas East and Stars were paired together in the meet with the two teams starting their evening on vault.

Stars went before Texas East and Flam delivered the best score of the night in any event in opening minutes of competition with a 9.825.

Shaffer led the way for Texas East and showed her intentions with a 9.725, the second-best vault score of the evening. Watson and Dukes followed with a 9.6 and 9.57, respectively.

Flam's vault put her in first place after the first rotation with Shaffer in second.

The two groups moved over to the bars where Flam was able to increase her lead thanks to a routine that nabbed her a 9.55.

Watson delivered a 9.55 on the bars to shoot up into third place overall. A fall cost Shaffer, who scored 8.875 to drop into seventh place through two rotations.

On the balanced beam, Shaffer rebounded with the second-best score of the night on that apparatus. Shaffer was near flawless to score a 9.65 that moved her up into fourth place in the all-around while Watson stayed steady in third after a 9.25.

Flam delivered a 9.55, meaning all she had to do was avoid a mistake on floor and the all-around championship was hers. She was next to last for the Stars on the floor and finished with a 9.475. It was the sixth-best score on the floor, but it was enough to solidify an combined all-around championship.

Watson and Shaffer did their best on floor to challenge with Watson scoring 9.725 and Shaffer finishing with 9.675. Dukes finished off a solid performance with a 9.65 score.

Three of the Texas East gymnasts top four combined all-around finishers took home first place finishes in their respective divisions.

Watson was first in bars and floor to finish as all-around champion in Sr. A with teammate Shaffer first in vault and beam to take second in all-around.

Dukes was all-around Sr. B champion thanks to a first-place finish on floor and third on beam in the division.

Danica Abanto was third in both bars and beam in the Jr. B division, which was swept by Flam.

Savanna Maradiaga finished third in bars for Sr. B.

The meet continues Saturday with action at Herrington Patriot Center and the Texas East Gym.

Sports Reporter

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