Expect standings to change little this year when Greater Spokane League gymnasts take to the apparatus.
Last year’s top four teams, including Mead, are expected to finish roughly in that order again this season.
North Central, Rogers and Shadle Park return their main performers from a year ago. Those gymnasts are expected to compete for individual state berths.
Main differences are that the Highlanders have a new head coach, former Mead gymnast Tammy Schindler, and the number of state allotments have been reduced for this region.
Only one team, the top two all-around performers and seven individuals per event will advance to the state meet in Tacoma in February.
“Coaches are upset because our region is growing,” said Rogers coach Kathy Harrison, who blames statewide politics. “On the coast they are combining teams and counting them as separate schools.”
That may help keep teams powerful for a time, she said, but will be detrimental in the long run.
“There is no school identity and it hurts programs,” she said. “I’m proud of our administrators keeping their school programs and giving kids a chance to compete.”
The GSL season opens Dec. 5.
State performers back at Mead
Four athletes, including the top three all-around performers, return for Mead.
The Panthers last year finished fourth in league behind University, Ferris and Central Valley.
“I’ve never been below the top four. We better be there,” said Laurie Ticknor, who is in her 10th year as coach. “I’d like to see us move up.”
Her leading all-around perfomers are seniors Kelly Herron and Heather Salo, and sophomore Marki Stewart.
Herron and Salo reached state in floor exercise and vault, respectively. Stewart qualified in both.
Also back is senior Alisha Simchuk, who reached state on beam.
Varsity veterans are senior Melanie Rogers and junior Kelsie Slack.
Freshmen newcomers showing potential are Anna Vagstad, Ciaria Mylnar and Kristen Halverson.
NC plans improvement
With three of last year’s top four all-around athletes back, the Indians hope to better last year’s 9-12 record.
“We hope to be improved,” said coach Bob Litton, who was league coach of the year. “We’re young, almost half the team is freshmen. But for the first time in three years these are frosh with gymnastics background.”
State veteran seniors Emily Jones and Shelly Betts lead the team, along with fellow senior all-arounder Heather Brotherton.
Others with varsity experience are juniors Kelly Kauffman, Aleetha Allen and sophomore Kristin Walters.
“We have eight freshmen,” said Litton. “If they come around we could really do well.”
Pirates thinking regionals
Harrison’s Pirates have won six matches in back-to-back seasons and have half a dozen competitors she says have regional meet potential.
“I feel we can take kids to state,” she said.
Four athletes with regional experience lead the team, including senior Cora Gaines, junior Brandy Shea, floor exercise individual Carlene Krebs and sophomore Sandra Canan.
“She’ll work up to all-around this year,” said Harrison. “She’s more experienced.”
Also back are senior vaulters Teresa Sommerville and Arlene Dawe.
Sophomores include all-arounder Kristina Martin and floor-beam specialists Crystal Bettencourt and Becky Fuller. Freshman prospect is Diana Ulijohn.
“We have a lot of new kids with a lot of potential,” said Harrison.
New coach optimistic at Shadle
New coach Tammy Schindler is optimistic about her team’s chances this year.
“I think we are actually going to contend,” she said. “The team is young and the freshmen will be very good. We have a year or two to build.”
Ten varsity competitors return from last year’s team, including top all-around performer Mary Bass and Tami Pule who was a regional qualifier.
They are two of the team’s seven juniors. Others are Kim Bond, Jenny Roach, Andy Hannon, Stephanie Schirman and Laura Kelleher.
Only senior letter winners are Christa Bouge and Adrien Plummer. Returning sophomore varsity member is Tania Van Winckle.
“We have some freshmen coming up, who, if they choose to stick with it, can be really good,” said Schindler.
Shadle has implemented a gymnastics-specific strength program and is working to build skills.
“Everyone is back,” said Schindler. “We’re going to be a lot better. I’m really excited.”