Defending league and regional champion University, a state qualifier, squares off with 2007 state runner-up Mead on Wednesday, each seeking the upper hand in Greater Spokane League gymnastics.
The meet at U-Hi is pivotal for teams that enter the season as favorites.
Each won openers last week, the Panthers of new coach Laurie Chadwick scoring 166.2 to beat Lakeside, the Titans 160.35 to beat Lewis and Clark, North Central and Rogers.
U-Hi’s championship was its first since the end of an eight-year run in 1997 when the Titans won seven titles in eight years, the last six in a row.
Coaches Tracy Duncan and Karen Renner begin their sixth year with the Titans and boast what Duncan says “is the most talent we have had.”
State veterans Stacie Davis and Kaleigh Campbell went one-two all-around and Denel Lang was fifth last week, with Davis winning uneven bars and balance beam.
A couple of newcomers, Tarah Chess and Amber DeMaine, provide needed depth to last year’s state fourth-place finisher. Key to their hopes of repeating is the health of Cortney Gilbert, who reinjured a knee last week during warm-ups.
Chadwick, who has an extensive coaching background, formerly was head coach at Lakeside and assisted at Mead before replacing Amanda Workman this year.
“Laurie is one of the best in state and Mead will be a challenge for us,” Duncan said.
State veterans Taylor Gray and Lauren Budig, plus Kendra Sherman and Sara Benson, provided the Panthers’ punch last week, finishing behind strong Lakeside freshman Anade Egland. Egland’s all-around score of 34.675 was second only to Shadle Park performer Alana Norman’s 35.675 during the first week of competition.
Shadle, which scored 155.075 to top Central Valley, Ferris and Mt. Spokane, will be a 3A state team threat in February.
•Regional this year will be at the old Mead Middle School, which is being used as a joint practice facility for both Mead and Mt. Spokane. The opening of new Mountainside Middle School replaces what was once the district high school on Market Street. The move has resulted in creation of a permanent district gymnastics facility. It is cozy for spectators, Mead athletic director Dick Cullen said, but will work. Another advantage has been addition of a spring floor that enhances floor exercise routines.
“Previously we were the only ones to have one,” U-Hi’s Duncan said. “Now, that advantage is gone, darn it.”
She said last week using a conventional wrestling mat for floor exercise, U-Hi’s degree of difficulty was reduced by 1.5 points per competitor.
Last week’s 125-pound weight class at the Inland Empire Classic at Central Valley was loaded. There were three defending state champions listed and one of them, Lakeland’s Kyle McCrite, negotiated the field to earn Tournament Outstanding Wrestler honors.
He won twice by pin, twice by decision, including 4-3 over Hermiston’s Ben Jorgensen for the title. Jorgensen had reached the finals by injury default over Coeur d’Alene state champion Braden Mowry.
•Hermiston’s team win, one coach said, well could have been the result of its decision to compete in collegiate-style tournaments during the off-season, rather than freestyle and Greco Roman as Washington wrestlers do. Collegiate is more compatible with the high school wrestling holds.
“If kids try to do summer wrestling we make sure it’s collegiate,” Bulldogs coach Curt Berger said. “We’ve gone to Las Vegas (for a freestyle tourney), but taking a team, it’s worked out better for us to focus on the collegiate style. Getting them 30 matches, it helps more here than freestyle helped in the past.”
East Valley coach Craig Hanson had pointed out the difference between the Oregon school’s out-of-season preparation and schools in Washington. The Knights went 3-4 in head-to-head contests with Hermiston.
“It made a difference for them,” Hanson said. “Their kids are tough.”
The place to be tonight is Gonzaga Prep, where Shadle Park comes calling for a 7:15 p.m. Greater Spokane League game between boys preseason favorites. The Highlanders are 4-0 after rallying to beat Ferris. The Bullpups (3-0) are coming off a bye.
Saturday night lights
With the holidays impending, Greater Spokane League basketball will play three times this week, including Saturday with games at 2:45 p.m. (girls) and 4:30. Among them is a girls showdown with Shadle Park (3-1) at Lewis and Clark (4-0).
•If that isn’t busy enough, it’s an even busier week for the Ferris boys. Because of football postponements, the Saxons are playing five games in eight days.
Monday night was the first, when they beat Lewis and Clark 62-50. Tonight they’re at Rogers, Friday they host University, Saturday they play North Central at home and they finish up Monday at Mead.
On the sixth night, the Tuesday before Christmas, they have a bye.