Gymnastics: Beamer and TJ are top contenders in SPSL

Federal Way has plenty of gymnastics talent returning to the four high school teams this season, including Thomas Jefferson High School’s Madi Kellar - Casey Olson/The Mirror
Federal Way has plenty of gymnastics talent returning to the four high school teams this season, including Thomas Jefferson High School’s Madi Kellar
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

After nearly a month break, gymnasts in the South Puget Sound League got up and running again Wednesday night. And that was welcome news in the Federal Way School District, which has plenty of talent among the four high school teams.

The Thomas Jefferson Raiders and Todd Beamer Titans are not only contenders in the SPSL, but also the state. The Raiders rolled to the SPSL North title last year with a perfect 17-0 record, which was the first time the school finished unbeaten in league action. But it was the Titans, who won the SPSL South with a perfect record, that excelled a little more in the postseason, winning the West Central District crown and finishing second at the Class 4A state meet. Both teams brought back most of that talent.

“Even though we are young, they are pretty experienced as competitors,” said longtime TJ head coach Deb Hunter. “They know what has to be done in order to compete in the league and understand that it is a long season and we have lots to do in order to be competitive.”

Both Jefferson and Beamer have started the 2010-11 season with unblemished records and will meet on Jan. 26 in the Federal Way All-City Meet at Beamer. The meet will also include Federal Way and Decatur.

Leading the list of impressive individual returners in Federal Way is Beamer junior Sam West. Last season, West followed her all-around title at the West Central District Meet with a solid second-place performance at the Class 4A State Gymnastics Championships inside the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Center.

As a sophomore, West finished the all-around with 37.075 points on the four events at state. She was fifth overall on the uneven parallel bars with a 9.15, sixth on the beam with a 9.15, 14th on the floor exercise with a 9.4 and ninth on the vault with a 9.375.

As a team, the Titans also finished in second place behind Woodinville, which has won the past four titles. Woodinville scored 181.1 points, compared to the 169.35 tallied by the Titans.

Aside from West, Beamer also boasts solid all-arounders and state meet veterans like Cassie Peterson, Jessica Freeborn and Kasey Johnson, among others. Freeborn finished 19th in the all-around at last year’s state meet.

Jefferson finished fourth in the team standings with 166.775 points at state and return basically everybody from that squad. The Raiders are once again led by Madi Kellar.

Kellar has been ultra-impressive during the early season for the Raiders. The junior, who also finished in fifth place at the state diving meet in the fall, tallied 36.9 points to win the all-around in a meet on Dec. 10. The performance included three individual event wins.

Kellar finished fifth in the all-around with 36.525 points at last year’s state meet and also ended up in the top five in a pair of individual events in Tacoma. As a sophomore, she was fifth on the bars with an 8.75 and fourth on the floor exercise with a 9.55.

Also back for the Raiders are sisters Monica and Shelby Church. Shelby finished 15th in the all-around with 35.475 points at state and Monica was 18th with 34.325 points.

“This is a fun group to watch because they are really athletic,” Hunter said. “Our focus is on working hard and enjoying every moment of the season.”

Federal Way and Decatur also have some talented gymnasts on their rosters. The Eagles finished sixth in the SPSL North last year and the Gators were fourth in the SPSL South.

Federal Way brings back seniors Rachael Gorrie, Courtney Stute and Taryn Paschke, juniors Valerie Pham, Mariah Campbell and Christina Ventura, along with sophomores Tiffany McNeary, Sarah Blackner and Caly Hagedorn.

“We have an amazing group of girls who are able to adapt to almost any situation and make things work,” said Eagle head coach Jamie Tough.

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