Sports

Tradititon should continue at Federal Way

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

The Federal Way High School gymnastics team is in the midst of a nice little run. A run that includes three straight third-place finishes at the Class 4A state championships.

But head coach Beverly McIrvin wouldn’t mind improving that end-of-the-season ranking a couple spots this season.

“We want to maintain a winning tradition,” McIrvin said.

Things set up nicely for the Eagles to continue that tradition. Federal Way returns five solid gymnasts from last year’s third-place team that went a perfect 20-0 during the South Puget Sound League regular season. The Eagles also add two solid newcomers into the mix.

Leading the list of returners is Leslie McKinnon, a senior all-arounder. The Wednesday before the West Central District meet last year, McKinnon was lost for the postseason with a dislocated elbow. It was an injury that took Federal Way out of the clear favorite role at the Class 4A State Gymnastics Championships and made them into just another team fighting for a trophy.

Other strong returners include Mykel Stivers, Heather Penor, Ashley Sparks and Keelin Crews, who all competed at last year’s state championships. Newcomers Michelle Ha and Lelea Stivers should also provide points for the Eagles and their roster.

“I’m looking forward to a great season with 32 energetic, lovely young ladies,” McIrvin said.

McIrvin will be without the services of one of the better gymnasts in the history of the program — Lauren Webb. Webb finished in the top-10 in three straight all-around competitions and was fourth last year and second in 2003. Also gone is Brianne Hall, who tied for seventh in last season’s all around.

The lack of experience hurt in the Eagles’ season-opening meet last week. The Rogers Rams handed Federal Way their first regular season loss since 2000. The Eagles and Rogers will meet for the second time this season on Jan. 19.

“This year we have less experience at the competitive level,” McIrvin said. “It’s a new year and we have some rebuilding to do. Rogers has five strong, experienced girls. They will be tough to beat.”

JEFFERSON

Debbie Hunter is entering her 29th season as the head coach of the Raider gymnastics program and has a team that has plenty of potential. Jefferson is coming off a season that saw them rack up an 11-6 record in the SPSL South, which was good for third place. Hunter also returns several gymnasts.

Leading the list of returners is sophomore Nicora Long. As a freshman last season, Long qualified for the Class 4A state gymnastics meet on the bars, balance beam and floor exercise. She should be the Raiders’ top all-arounder this year.

Hunter also returns three seniors — Bekah Kraft, Jamie Nielsen and Erika Zabelle — who should provide leadership to a young and inexperienced team.

Leading the list of newcomers into the TJ program will be three freshmen. Erin Chapin, Molly Gebhardt and Jennifer McCreery should join Long as all-arounders. Junior Becki Gehri will also compete as an all-arounder.

“It’s going to be a fun year,” Hunter said. “By the end of the season, we should be pretty competitive.”

BEAMER

The Todd Beamer High School gymnastics program is looking to take another step forward in its second year of existence. Last year, the Titans finished in a tie for fourth place in the SPSL with no seniors.

Second-year coach Michelle Thompson returns three strong gymnasts, including juniors Christy Wells and Nikki Metzler and sophomore Valerie Finch. Wells competed last year at the state gymnastics meet inside the Tacoma Dome. She finished in a tie for 46th out of 95.

Newcomers Kaylyn Borden and Christina Bergesen, both freshmen, will add some depth for the Titans, especially on the vault.

Thompson sees a top-10 finish at the West Central/Southwest District Meet as a solid season for the Titans.

DECATUR

The Gators will have one of the youngest gymnastic teams in the SPSL this season. Decatur’s 24-girl roster includes only one senior — Mary Koenig — and numerous freshmen.

“It might be a difficult start,” said co-coach Patty Braun, who is in her first season at Decatur with co-coach Jessica Eisenberg. “We will be a lot better later in the season.”

Leading the list of returners will be juniors Chantael Duke and Carly Jones. Duke should be the Gators’ best all-arounder this season and Jones returns after qualifying for the Class 4A state championships on the balance beam last season. Junior Sapphire Hendron should be one of the better vaulters in the league.

Newcomers who should score points for Decatur this season should be sophomore all-arounder Lindsay Warren and freshman Brittany Stone on bars.

“We are really looking at a young team,” Braun said. “We are still trying to get our routines down.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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