Tension between high school teams and club programs is a negative sometimes. For Timberline High School, it produced the school’s first trip to the state gymnastics meet as a team.
When the Blazers compete in the Class 3A championships, starting Thursday at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall, two of their top gymnasts will be athletes who intentionally stepped away from the pressure of club competition. A third still participates with a club, but was drawn to Timberline’s program for reasons that go beyond the sport.
Freshman Jasmine Shea, who finished ninth all-around at the recent West Central District meet thanks to an 8.85 score in floor exercise, left one club program and didn’t relish the idea of working her way onto another team. Senior Stephanie Svach fractured her back doing a back handspring on the high bar during middle school and was sidelined for two years.
“I never thought I was going to quit,” said Svach, whose best and favorite event is the vault. “I needed to take some time off, but during eighth grade I thought, ‘Why not do high school gymnastics?’ ”
Freshman Madi Tanneberg, whose Auburn club team permits its athletes to compete for their high schools, turned out for the Blazers without any thought of reducing her involvement in the sport.
“I love gymnastics so much it’s my life, it’s all I’ve ever known since second grade, all I do,” she said. “I can be really shy at school, so going into high school I wanted to be able to make friends with a group of girls who understood what I was talking about.”
Coach Shannon Brigham, now in her 11th season at the helm of what is a combined Timberline-North Thurston-River Ridge team during the regular season and three separate teams for the postseason, sees the value in a club background.
“We get a lot of girls who have never done gymnastics before,” she said. “The teams that do really well tend to have a lot of club gymnasts.”
The Blazers have depth beyond Shea, Svach and Tanneberg.
Brooklyn Williamson will compete on the balance beam, Makenna Hansen in vault and uneven bars, Nikia Bristol in floor, Denise Tristan in vault, Julianne Arroyo on the beam and floor, Joanna Pingel in vault, bars and beam, and Brianna Schuette in bars and floor.
The Blazers won’t ignore their regular-season teammates now competing for North Thurston: Caytlin Johnston (vault and floor) and Adrienne Liebert (floor).
“The girls work out and compete together all season,” Brigham said. “They form really good friendships with the girls from the other schools. They’ll go over and cheer them on when they’re competing. It’s kind of neat.”
Nonetheless, when the squad split up for postseason, a bit of school spirit did kick in.
“We’re supportive of all the girls, but it does feel like we’re representing our own school a little more now,” said Shea, who finished third on the floor and added a 7.65 vault at districts, but prefers to compete on the bars.
“It’s just a fun time swinging on the bars,” she said. “On the floor I’ve really had to break out of my shell as the season’s gone on. If you want to score high you have to show out for the judges. I’m a good tumbler, but you have to have both that and dance ability.”
Tanneberg, coming off an individual fifth at district in bars at 7.025, has a different take.
“I love bars because it’s my best event, but I like floor, too,” she said. “You get to dance and show off and act like you’re having fun.”
Svach prefers the faster events and backed that up at districts with a 7.80 vault, good for eighth place.
“The vault has always been my favorite. It only takes about 20 seconds to take your turn. You don’t have to put a lot of thought into it. Bars, too, because it’s so fast you do it without thinking,” she said.
When the season started, the Blazers believed they might make history.
“We knew coming in we had a really good chance with all the strong newcomers,” said Svach.
Last weekend, at districts, the chance turned to reality. The Blazers scored 139.850 points as a team, runner-up to champion Port Angeles, which tallied 148.800, and nearly 10 points ahead of third-place Renton.
“It felt amazing when I heard them call ‘Timberline’ as second place and we knew we’d be going to state as a team,” said Tanneberg. “I didn’t realize how awesome it was going to be. The feeling I had was so thrilling.”
Gymastics state championships
Thursday-Saturday, Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall
2016 team champions: Class 4A — Woodinville. Class 3A/2A — Kamiakin.
2016 individual champions: 4A — All-Around: Marisa Savage, Woodinville. Uneven bars: Marisa Savage, Woodinville. Balance beam: Kylie Mosset, Woodinville. Floor exercise: Alli McManus, Woodinville. Vault: Makayala Waggoner, Olympia. 3A/2A — All-Around: Ali Tate, Auburn. Uneven bars: Kayla Porter, Auburn Mountainview. Balance beam: Kayla Porter, Auburn Mountainview. Floor exercise: Jade Anderson, Mt. Spokane. Vault: Elena Fowler, Holy Names.
Schedule: Thursday — 3A/2A/1A: All-Around, 11:30 a.m.; team competition, 3:45 p.m. Friday —3A/2A/1A: Finals for vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise, 11 a.m. 4A: All-Around, 1:30 p.m.; team competition, 5:40 p.m. Saturday — 4A: Finals for vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise, 11 a.m.
The skinny: 4A — Olympia has four athletes competing in individual events. Katiana Welsheimer qualified for the vault, beam and floor events. She was the top individual qualifier in the vault (8.675) at the 4A West Central District meet last weekend, and the No. 2 individual qualifier in the beam (8.825) behind teammate Kate Havens (9.025). Havens qualified in the bars, beam and floor. She was the No. 2 individual qualifier in the bars (7.85) and floor (9.2). Kirsandra Welsheimer (floor) and Lilia Allen (beam) also qualified for the Bears. 3A/2A/1A — Timberline is the only local program to qualify as a team. The Blazers took second (139.85 points) at the 3A/2A West Central District meet last weekend, led by Jasmine Shea, Stephanie Svach and Madi Tanneberg. Capital’s Isabel Sanchez will compete in the all-around. She won the beam (8.575) at the district meet. Capital’s Emma Wirzbicki (vault) and North Thurston’s Caytlin Johnston (vault, floor) and Adrienne Liebert (floor) also qualified.
Tickets: Daily passes are $17 for adults, $13 for students/senior citizens. Tournament passes are $25 for adults, $19 for students/senior citizens.
Lauren Smith: email@example.com