Improved is the word for most North Side gymnastics teams.
Defending champion University is again considered the Greater Spokane League favorite and coaches expect Ferris to be U-Hi’s likely challenger. But don’t count Mead, Rogers or Shadle Park out of it.
Last year’s third-place finishing Mead is more experienced. Only two seniors graduated and they will be missed only in floor exercise.
“On everything else people can step into what we’ve lost,” said Panther coach Laurie Ticknor. “We’re starting now where we were at the end of last season.”
Rogers, which in each of two previous seasons has recorded school-best team scores, expects to be even better than last year’s 6-15 season.
“This is a very strong team,” said coach Kathy Harrison. “We only lost one senior. This is my fourth year and the kids have developed all the way through.”
Shadle Park returns 20 athletes from a year ago, which is why coach Christine Callihan said, “we’re going for fourth place this year.”
Only North Central, which went 11-10 in league last year, doesn’t expect to be improved.
“We’re going to be struggling,” said coach Bob Litton. “But we’ll have a good time.”
The GSL season begins in two weeks.
Panthers continue to contend
Mead’s gymnastics team has annually been a top-three league finisher and things shouldn’t change.
“Walking into the gym and starting where we left off is a nice feeling,” said Ticknor. “I expect to see the team improve past where we ended.”
The Panther’s No. 1 and No. 2 all-around competitors, Kelly Herron and Heather Salo, return for their junior years. Herron is a three-event state qualifier.
Seniors Amy Ayers and Carmen Griswold provide backing.
Sophomore Kelsie Slack, who went to state on beam, returns along with juniors Alisha Simchuk and Melanie Rogers.
A strong addition is freshman Marki Stewart who was a club gymnast when younger, although she’s been away from the sport for a few years.
“I don’t really know how close we’ll be to the top right now and the first couple of meets ain’t going to be pretty,” said Ticknor. “But I feel we’ll be stronger as a team.”
NC must replace five graduates
The loss of five competitors through graduation will make Litton’s job more difficult.
All his state experience is gone and their replacements have precious little gymnastics background.
“We’re going to be scratching to stay off the bottom,” said Litton.
Returning to the Indians are last year’s top two all around performers, juniors Emily Jones and Shelly Betts.
Other all-around probables are seniors Shelley Malsom, Krys Allen and junior Heather Brotherton.
Senior Kim Allen, junior Barbara Dixon and sophomores Aleetha Allen, Desiree Henson and Kelly Kauffman are others on varsity.
“We have our second freshman class without any previous experience,” said Litton. “That’s all right. We’ll work harder.”
Coach optimistic about Rogers
For four years, Harrison has been building toward this moment.
“This is the deepest team I’ve ever had,” she said. “The last two years we’ve PR’ed (personal record) our team scores. We expect to do so again this year.”
Only one senior graduated and of the returnees, Marissa Landrie qualified for regionals all-around and five others did so in individual events.
Among them are Jen Hutchins, Cora Gaines and sophomores Latisha Conto and Brandy Shea.
“At least at the beginning they will be the main team scorers until the inexperienced kids get meet time,” said Harrison.
Event specialists on bars are senior Melissa Langston, her sister, junior Rebecca Langston and senior Sarah Childs.
On floor exercise and balance beam are juniors Marla Miller and Jessica Guernsey.
On vault are juniors Teresa Somerville and regional qualifier Arlene Dawe.
Strength in numbers at Shadle
Shadle Park has 20 experienced athletes back in its lineup even if a couple did not return.
Leading the way is sophomore Mary Bass who was a state qualifier on the uneven bars last year.
“I expect a lot from her,” said Callihan.
Also returned are Neely Gibbons and Julia Stewart and Wendy Haley, the latter two seniors.
Freshman newcomer Tania Van Winckel and first-time senior Heather Haverstock will factor in.
So, too, will Christa Bougue and five others with a chance to score with the varsity.
When regional all-around performer Jenny Bond opted for cheerleading, Shadle’s team chances were weakened.
“But I still think we have a lot of strength,” said Callihan. “The girls have come a long way and have a lot of hopes.”
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