Federal Way gymnasts set their sights on state

Polly Tieu was inspired to start gymnastics after watching the 2008 Olympics with her family.

Polly Tieu was inspired to start gymnastics after watching the 2008 Olympics with her family.

“I remember thinking it was so cool and I wanted to move like them,” she said.

The Federal Way High School sophomore was especially inspired by Nastia Liukin’s story. A Russian-American gymnast, Liukin was the 2008 Olympic individual all-around champion.

“She was a really good all-around gymnast and I was moved by her story,” Tieu said. “Her parents were both Olympic gymnasts and they opened up a gymnastics business when it was over. They didn’t want her to be a gymnast because it was a hard life, but she would come to the gym every day and copy what the gymnasts did.”

Tieu started gymnastics when she was 10 and has competed with Federal Way High School for two years now. She is now second on her team.

“My drive is to go to state and do well is what keeps me going back and working hard,” she said. “And the girls on my team, there are a lot of entertaining people on our team.”

Tieu wants to make a mark at state.

“I went to state last year, but I was too nervous and didn’t do as well as I wanted,” she said. “I want to go back this year and do better.”

Tieu enjoys the bars the best, although she competes all-around.

“Bars are my favorite because when you get yourself really high it feels like you are flying,” she said. “I learned a lot about it and it’s fun to compete, but I’ve performed the best in floor or vault.”

Tieu and her 17 other teammates practice almost three hours a day.

“We are in a better place this year than we were last year,” said Karrie Marton, coach. “There are a lot of freshmen on our team, so we are a young team this year, which is making a difference in our scores because many are still learning and some have never done gymnastics before.”

Marton said Federal Way is often behind in meets leading up to sub-district and district.

“I tell the girls to always work hard, but not to worry about the meets until district or state,” she said. “That’s where our girls tend to step up and surprise everyone.”

The average team score is 28.55 for the all-around gymnasts. Federal Way’s total meet score is 155.6, which is up by nearly 11 points from last year.

“This is a great group of girls and they are all really hard-working,” Marton said. “They are ready to make it to district and show everyone what they are capable of at state. The girls have a great sense of commitment and they really want it.”

First place gymnast and team captain Madeleine Grace said her goal is to finish off her gymnastics career with a bang by making a mark at state. The senior has an average score of 31.93.

“I want to go to state doing vault and floor,” she said. “I made it to state last year but was too nervous to place where I wanted, so I want to go back this year and redeem myself.”

Marton said last year was both Tieu’s and Grace’s first time at state.

“They were just not confident enough, they let themselves feel intimidated by the girls on the other team that have done club gymnastics their whole lives,” she said. “That is not going to happen this year — they are both extremely talented gymnasts and I see good things for them.”

Grace has been doing gymnastics since she was 6 years old. She started off at Gymnastics Express and then moved on to another Puget Sound club.

“I tried ballet first, but I had too much energy for it and got kicked out,” she said. “I love being active, pushing myself and creating goals.”

She has done gymnastics at Federal Way High School for three years.

“The beam is my favorite because it’s really challenging,” Grace said. “Many people don’t like it because the challenge scares them, but that’s why I like it.”

Grace received first for all-around at the second meet, as well as first place for floor and bars.

“I get really nervous performing in front of people at meets, but I try to just remember not to hold my breath and talking to my teammates helps too,” Grace said.

She added gymnastics pushes her to be her best.

“There’s always room for improvement, you always can get better,” she said. “I’ve applied that thought process to the rest of my life as well.”

Subdistricts is Feb. 7, districts is Feb. 14 and state is Feb. 20 and 21.

“Watch out for our team at districts,” Grace said. “We are going to do well.”