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Friday, December 13, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Area sports

Locally: Spokane’s April Johnston shines at USA Gymnastics Level 9 Western Championships

UPDATED: Sat., May 18, 2019

April Johnston looks good in gold.

The 17-year-old Mt. Spokane junior capped a “golden” championship season by winning the gold medal as Senior 7 vault champion at the 2019 USA Gymnastics Level 9 Western Championships last weekend at the Spokane Convention Center with a score of 9.6 that tied her season high.

On her march to nationals, Johnston, in her sixth year with Spokane’s Dynamic Gymnastics, was the Washington state vault champion for a third straight year, scoring 9.5, and qualified for the Western finals with a 9.4 to win gold as Region 2 champion, a title she also won at Levels 8.

She finished 16th in the Senior 7 all-around with a 36.225, scoring 8.825 on uneven bars, 8.575 on balance beam and 9.225 on floor exercise.

“April is a powerhouse gymnast and definitely excels in vault,” Melanie Bixby, one of her Dynamic coaches, said of the nine-year gymnast.

Dynamic teammate Rylin Zimmerman, 15, a freshman who is homeschooled, produced four scores of 9.0 or better to place second in Senior 4 all-around with a 37.5 and claim the silver medal. She was third on floor (9.425), sixth on beam (9.4) and seventh on vault (9.4).

For her performance, Zimmerman received a special charm bracelet from Region 2, which recognizes girls who score 9.0 or better in each event.

A third Dynamic gymnast, Maggie Carstens, 16, Reardan, earned the bronze medal with a 9.275 and third-place finish in Senior 7 beam and had a season-high score of 36.975 to place sixth in the all-around. She was also ninth on floor (9.325) and scored 8.875 on bars.

Alyssa Helbling, 15, from Spokane’s Northwest Gymnastics and a freshman at University, was 21st in Senior 4 all-around. She scored 9.2 on bars, 9.025 on vault, 8.725 on beam and 8.425 on floor.

Brody Lusk, 18, a member of the Dynamic men’s team, placed second on the high bar at the Level 10 USA Gymnastics Nationals earlier this month in Reno, Nevada, to win the silver medal.

Lusk, who is in the Running Start program through Mt. Spokane, is headed to the University of Washington to compete for the Huskies.


Steve Flegel, Whitworth’s assistant athletic director of sports information, was voted by his peers to receive the 2019 Jack Sareault Award as Northwest Conference Sports Information Director of the Year.

It is the third time Flegel, in his 24th year at Whitworth, has received the award honoring the late former longtime sports writer and sports information director for the NWC.

Flegel, who oversees 20 varsity sports and serves as vice-chair of the CoSIDA U committee, also received the Sareault Award in its initial year, 2006, and 2013. He also received the American Volleyball Coaches Association Grant Burger Media Award for the NCAA Division III West Region in 2006.

Flegel worked as the information director of the NWC from July 1999 until December 2011 and has been involved in a number of NCAA Division III Championship events as media coordinator and has volunteered at several NCAA Division I volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball championships.


Jason Chainey and Camille Williams have been hired as assistant coaches as Washington State head women’s coach Kamie Ethridge brought her staff up to full strength.

Chainey is from Parkinson, Queensland, where he spent more than two decades coaching at the highest levels in Australian women’s professional basketball. He also worked as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Mercury during three of the WNBA team’s training camps. Most recently, he was an assistant with the Adelaide Lightning in the Australian Women’s National Basketball League.

It was during a stint as head coach of the Logan Thunder of the WNBL that he coached Ethridge’s associate head coach, Laurie Koehn, who introduced the WSU head coach to Chainey.

Williams, who has spent 18 years on the bench at various programs, comes to the Palouse from the Bay Area, where she last spent one season as head coach at the Academy of Art University. She also spent one season as director of basketball operations at San Francisco after a nine-year stretch at Nevada, where she was an assistant and later the associate head coach.

A two-sport athlete at Wisconsin (basketball and track and field) and an All-Big Ten basketball selection in 1993, Williams was also an assistant at UC Santa Barbara and California.

College scene

John Dressel, a Colorado senior from Mt. Spokane and two-time All-American who missed the 2018 season with an injury, will compete in both the 5,000 and 10,000 at the 2019 NCAA Track & Field Outdoor Championships Division I West Preliminaries next weekend in Sacramento, California.

Dressel finished second in the men’s 10,000 (29:13.35) and fourth in the 5,000 (13:51.10) at the Pac-12 Championships last weekend in Tucson, Arizona.

• Six Gonzaga men have been selected to the Division I West Preliminaries.

Gonzaga will send seniors Andrew Gardner (Mead) and Kellen Manley, who will run in the 3,000-meter steeplechase; sophomore Yacine Guermali, 5,000; seniors Scott Kopczynski and Brandon Pollard, 1,500; and freshman James Mwaura, 10,000.

In his final opportunity at the West Coast Invitational last week, Pollard ran a qualifying time of 3:44.32 to win the 1,500. It’s a PR by 4 seconds and ranks No. 2 in school history.

• Washington State earned a total of 20 qualified entries into the West Preliminary rounds.

The list includes six women – sophomore Zorana Grujic (3,000 steeplechase); junior Molly Scharmann and senior Katelyn Frost (pole vault); freshman Charisma Taylor (triple jump); senior Chrisshnay Brown (shot put); and junior Aoife Martin (hammer).

The 14 men include Lake City senior Kyler Little (3,000 steeplechase); junior Emmanuel Wells Jr. (100/200); Logos of Moscow junior Paul Ryan (1,500); Gonzaga Prep junior Nick Johnson and junior Sam Brixey (110 hurdles); senior Christapherson Grant (110 and 400 hurdles); senior Peyton Fredrickson, sophomore Mitch Jacobson and senior Keelan Halligan (high jump); Jacob Englar (pole vault); and seniors Brock Eager and Amani Brown (hammer).

Mayyi Mahama of Pullman, a freshman at Pennsylvania, qualified for the NCAA Division I Eastern Preliminary Championships next weekend in Jacksonville, Florida, after throwing the women’s hammer a personal-best 202 feet, 7 inches to place second in the ECAC/IC4A Championships last weekend.

• Princeton sophomore Ryle Pease of Cheney finished 11th in the women’s javelin at the ECAC/IC4A meet at 131-6 but qualified for the Eastern Preliminary Championships for a second straight year off her school-record PR of 157-6 earlier in the season.

Scout Cai, the Seattle Pacific junior from Colfax, will be competing in the pole vault and heptathlon at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships this week in Kingsville, Texas.

Cai is seeded eighth in the heptathlon, in which she finished second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships with a personal-best 5,034 points, and 16th in the pole vault, with a GNAC-winning vault of 12-10.

J.T. Konrad, a senior from Mt. Spokane at Western Washington, placed fifth in the men’s pole vault at the GNAC Championships, clearing 15- 1/4.

• Junior Keshun McGee won his record sixth Big Sky Conference men’s track and field championship last weekend when completed a 4-for-4 sweep of indoor and outdoor jumping titles, capturing the triple jump at 50-11.

Eagles junior Larry Still captured his fourth Big Sky men’s pole vault title, going 16-5 1/2, and senior Samantha Raines led a 1-2-3 EWU sweep in the women’s pole vault with a winning mark of 13-4 1/2 . Senior Elizabeth Prouty was second and sophomore Katrina Terry third as they produced the first EWU women’s sweep in 32 years in the Big Sky.

• The Idaho women got a school-record and Big Sky Conference-winning long jump from freshman Henrike Fiedler at 20-4 1/4.

• Whitworth junior outfielder Kinsey McNaught was named to the second team and freshman pitcher Drea Schwaier-Wolf was on the third team when the National Fastpitch Coaches Association 2019 NCAA Division III All-West Region softball teams were announced.

McNaught, an All-Northwest Conference first-team selection who graduated in three years earlier this month, batted .403 with 12 doubles, 33 RBIs, a .575 slugging percentage and 17 stolen bases. She did not commit an error in center field.

Schwaier-Wolf, NWC Freshman of the Year and co-Pitcher of the Year, had a 19-4 record and 2.22 ERA while compiling what the school called “the best freshman pitching campaign ever for Whitworth.”

• Washington State senior Aneta Miksovska was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic first team in women’s tennis with a 3.78 GPA while junior Melisa Ates, sophomore Michaela Bayerlova and senior Tiffany Mylonas received honorable mention.

• Four women athletes who maintained 4.0 GPAs throughout their seven semesters at Idaho – Erin Hagen (track and field), Kelly Dopke (soccer), Mikayla Ferenz (basketball) and Emily Kliewer (swimming and diving) – received $1,500 each from the school’s Rich and Mary Fox Memorial Scholarship fund.

• Washington State senior Paige Danielson, who graduated this month in electrical engineering with a 4.0 GPA, has been named the 2019 Pac-12 Women’s Rowing Scholar-Athlete of the Year as well as to the Google Cloud Academic All-District 8 Women’s At-Large Team.

Danielson received Google Cloud first-team all-academic honors for a second straight year after being named to the second team as a sophomore and is eligible for All-America honors. Last year, she went on to earn second-team Google Cloud Academic All-America.

• Track and cross country standout Marissa Mount received the 2019 Dennis Spurlock Award when the Whitworth athletic department recognized four outstanding senior student-athletes.

Derrick Phelps (men’s golf) and Michelle Silva (softball) were named the 2019 Senior Athletes of the Year, and Marissa Kirk (women’s tennis) received the Aaron Leetch Inspiration Award.

Mount, an NCAA Division III track and cross country All-American who scored 29 points for the Pirates at last month’s Northwest Conference Track & Field Championships and was named the NWC Women’s Athlete of the year, has a chance to add to her laurels at the D-III outdoor nationals later this month. She has the second fastest time in the women’s 3,000 steeplechase.

The Spurlock Award is named in memory of the former Pirates All-America quarterback (1958-61) and honors a senior student-athlete who models his characteristics.

Phelps, in his only season as a Pirate, was named the NWC Player of the Year in men’s golf. Silva capped a record-setting, four-year career with her fourth All-NWC selection and batted .344 with eight doubles, three triples and five home run, 34 RBIs, 36 runs and 12 stolen bases.

Kirk, who overcame a painful hip dysplasia earlier in life to play the sport she loves, competed two years for the Pirates in singles and doubles. Now she works helping her mother battle mom’s cancer diagnosis.

• Mount and baseball’s Nicholas Nerud were selected the Whitworth student-athletes of the month for April.

Mount returned from injury to accumulate 29 points at the NWC outdoor championships while running 19,500 meters over the course of the weekend.

Nerud reached base in more than half his plate appearances in April, leading the Pirates to a regular-season NWC championship. The senior hit .500 in April with an on-base percentage of .561. He also drove in 15 runs and stole nine bases in 10 attempts.

• Gonzaga outfielder Daniel Fredrickson, who graduated last weekend with a degree in mechanical engineering and a 3.85 GPA, was named to the Google Cloud Academic All-District Baseball Team. All-district honorees advance to the Google Cloud Academic All-America ballot.

• Senior AJ Armstrong collected his third straight Pac-12 All-Academic first-team honor in men’s golf to lead eight Cougars men and women honored by the conference with GPAs of 3.0 or better. Armstrong, who has a 3.82 GPA, was the only men’s team’s three-time honoree.

Senior Grant Cole and juniors Nicklaus Chiam and Scott Redelsperger were honorable mention.

The women landed junior Elodie Bridenne (3.8) on the first time, senior Madison Odiorne (3.55) on the second with sophomore Emily Baumgart and junior Maria Lund-Hansen honorable mention.

• Whitworth senior Derrick Phelps, who finished in the top three in each of the Northwest Conference’s three championship events, was named to the 2019 Division III PING All-Region golf team after being named the NWC Men’s Player of the Year.

• Men’s golfer Grant Cole and Chrisshnay Brown from women’s track and field, both seniors, were named the Washington State Academic Services Student-Athletes of the Month for May.

Cole, who’ll graduate at the end of the summer with a 3.37 GPA, has received several academic awards, including 2018 Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention. On the golf course, he had the team’s lowest scoring average in 2018 and has been involved with SAAC, namely as an emcee.

Brown, who has a 3.12 GPA and has received several academic honors, spearheaded efforts to get internet access in the Bohler Gym locker rooms. Earlier this month, she received the Rob Oviatt and David Lang Strength and Conditioning Award, given to one male and one female senior student-athlete who possess great commitment to training.

• Whitworth, which won championships in football, baseball and men’s swimming, and augmented them with seven runner-up finishes, won the 2018-19 Northwest Conference McIlroy-Lewis All-Sports trophy for the 12th consecutive year.

• With championships in basketball and volleyball (the latter a tie for first) and three seconds, the Idaho women won the Big Sky Conference All-Sports Trophy in their first year of eligibility since returning to the conference five years ago. It’s also a first for the team.

Northern Arizona, which finished second, received the men’s All-Sports Trophy.

Eastern Washington placed ninth in the women’s competition and fourth in the men’s, where Idaho was 11th.

• Idaho student-athletes achieved a department-wide 3.15 GPA spring semester, the 11th consecutive semester with a department 3.0 or better. Fourteen of 16 teams posted 3.0 or better with women’s cross country leading the way with a 3.73. Forty-seven student-athlete recorded a perfect 4.0 spring semester.

High school scene

St. George’s boys tennis claimed a fifth straight title and Northwest Christian softball won for a third straight year to lead the showing by area schools when the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, Dairy Farmers of Washington and Les Schwab Tires announced Academic State Champions for the 2018-19 spring sports season.

St. George’s, which has a 3.612 GPA, and Northwest Christian, with a 3.870, are both 2B schools.

Two other area 2B schools also claimed titles. Kettle Falls (3.985) won a second straight in girls tennis and Chewelah (3.705) won in girls golf.

Freeman won 1A titles in softball (3.840) and girls golf (3.960).

Other area state academic champions: Mead, 4A boys soccer, 3.558; Clarkston, 2A girls track & field, 3.894; Oakesdale, 1B girls track & field, 3.971; Colton, 1B baseball, 3.673; and Selkirk, 1B softball, 3.860.

Letter of intent

Lewis-Clark State women’s basketball – Rachel Schroeder, PG, Genesis Prep (Post Falls); three-time all-state, three-time All-North Star League, North Star MVP as junior.


Mike Shanks, who has been the men’s tennis coach at Whitworth University for 20 years, the second-longest tenure in the position in school history, announced his retirement, and Cameron Williams, who has been his assistant the last six years, was appointed his replacement.

Shanks was the 2005 Northwest Conference Coach of the Year and guided the Pirates to the NWC tournament eight times. During his playing career, he ranked as high as sixth in the Pacific Northwest in men’s 35 singles and No. 1 in men’s 35 doubles.

Williams was one of Shanks’ best players, earning All-NWC honors in 2012 and 2013. He has been Shanks’ assistant since he graduated.

Only Whitworth Heritage Gallery Hall of Famer Ross Cutter, the men’s tennis coach for 33 seasons (1959-91), served longer than Shanks.


A bat and ball autographed by former Seattle Mariners and Washington State Cougars baseball star John Olerud are among the featured items at the fifth annual auction, raffle, walk and picnic benefiting the Scleroderma Foundation Spokane Support Group on June 8 at Mirabeau Meadows Park in Spokane Valley.

Among other items is an autographed photo of World Series perfect-game pitcher Don Larsen.

An event T-shirt is included in the $25 fee for adults ($30 the day of the event, when a T-shirt can’t be guaranteed) and $10 for children aged 6-12. Children 5 and under are free. Teams and individuals may register at SteppingOutSpokane.

An estimated 300,000 Americans suffer from scleroderma, an autoimmune disease for which there is no cure. Most victims are women of child-bearing age. The disease causes tightening and thickening of the skin and damage to major organs.

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