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Auburn Mountainview gymnasts look for return to state meet

Ashley Perkovich returns as the leading gymnast on the Auburn Mountainview gymnastics squad. - Gary Kissel/Reporter
Ashley Perkovich returns as the leading gymnast on the Auburn Mountainview gymnastics squad.
— image credit: Gary Kissel/Reporter

Last season the Auburn Mountainview gymnastics team finished in third place in the state 3A meet.

With just a pair of seniors, including Sunny Lennon, lost to graduation, and a strong core of returners things looked up for the Lions.

Couple in the fact that Auburn Mountainview was returning second place all-around finisher Alexi Morton, and a possible 3A title did not seem out of reach for the squad.

But that was then, and this is now.

Early this year Morton tore her anterior cruciate ligament playing volleyball, forcing her to sit out her junior year.

According to senior Ashley Perkovich, it’s a loss that affects the whole team, not only on the mat, but personally.

“It’s going to affect me personally,” Perkovich said. “She’s what got me through gymnastics in club and high school all these years. So having her gone is taking a big toll. I’m just trying to stay positive, especially for her. But she has another year left, so it’s not over for her.”

“For the team I think it helps them to be more motivated and work hard for her because she can’t,” she continued. “That’s how it was with volleyball. So people are trying to work harder to make up for what she brought to the team.”

With the loss of Morton, the burden of driving the team to the state tourney falls on Perkovich and fellow senior Kendra Alexson, junior Michelle Tanco and sophomores Natalie Hostetter and Jacinda Goodman.

The team will also look to incoming freshman Sara Fiksdal to help fill the scoring gap.

“We’re looking for Ashley and Natalie (to help pick up the slack),” head coach Jayme Hostetter said. “I’ve got a freshman, Sara Fiksdal, who is great on beam. And then I have another sophomore, Jecinda Goodman. Those two are going to give me a nine on floor, a nine on beam. And that’s what you want, as many kids to give you a nine as you can.”

Perkovich agreed that the team looked good, despite the loss of its top scorer.

“I think the team looks really, really good,” Perkovich said. “Every practice everybody is getting something new. Everybody is working really hard. They’re doing really good at every practice.”

And of course, practice is the key that will hopefully drive the team to another state meet appearance.

“We want to win state, of course” Perkovich said. “But you have to look at it one step at a time. You have to look at practice first, then the little meets and then league. You can’t look past that. League comes first. You have to win league, it comes before all that. If you don’t do well at league, you can’t get past that. We just need to look at the steps in order and not get ahead of ourselves.”

“We have a good shot of doing well at the state meet,” Hostetter added. “That’s my hope. We were fifth two years ago, last year we were third. It’d be nice to go up one more and keep the trend going up.”

Riverside’s Turnbow back from injury

Last season ended in a bit of a disappointment for Auburn Riverside’s Rebecca Turnbow.

“I hurt both ankles,” the junior gymnast said. “I sprained my ankle at district. Then at state Ihurt my other ankle doing the floor exercise.”

Although the Ravens still managed to finish seventh in the team competition at the state 3A meet in 2008, aided by Turnbow’s 18.025 80th place all-around finish, she knew that had she been able to finish her routines, the team would have placed much higher.

“I was really disappointed,” she said. “I was mad at myself because I just wanted to be there and help my team at state.”

After the meet, Turnbow discovered that she had torn ligaments in her ankle and found herself on crutches for the next two months.

As soon as she got the go-ahead from the doctor, it was back to training for this season’s gymnastics season and her year-round participation in competitive cheer with the Elite All-Stars.

“I do competitive cheer, and the tumbling actually helps me stay in shape for gymnastics,” Turnbow said. “I did all my training in the high school gym this year. It’s taken a little bit longer, because I’ve been so busy, but I’m back now.”

This season the Lions will look to Turnbow, as well as senior Paige Crawford and sophomore Kylee Smith, to fill the gap left by the graduation of Rachel Trudeau. In addition, the team will look to several freshman, including Ali Rodseth, Payton Grey, Shelby Grey, Danielle Robinson and Tanika Stensen, to improve on last year’s second-place league finish and find their way to the state 4A meet this February at the Tacoma Dome.

“We have a better team this year,” Turnbow said. “We have Ali Rodseth, and she’s a good addition. She helps with losing Rachel (Trudeau). Our team was really young last year. And now they have more experience.”

And for the Ravens to progress through a tough South Puget Sound League 3A Division, the team will need every bit of experience and talent to navigate a competitive South Puget Sound League 4A Division.

“It’s going to be tough this year; we’ve got a hard division with Kentlake and Puyallup,” Turnbow said. “I just want to be one of the top finishers at state and help my team get to state.”

Kentlake looks

to make a splash

Although it’s still early in the season, the Kentlake gymnastics squad has already established itself as the team to beat in the South Puget Sound League North 4A Division this year.

On Dec. 10 the team notched a milestone by posting a 170.8 team score against Auburn Riverside, Auburn Mountainview and Olympia, shattering the previous school record of 163.95.

“I had it in my mind that I knew they could do it this year,” head coach Marla Boyd said. “But I didn’t think we’d do it as soon as we did.”

“We were pretty surprised,” senior Brianne Gould agreed. “We knew we were getting stronger as a team, but we didn’t think we’d get it that soon.”

This season the team will look to a strong core of returners, augmented by three key additions, to drive it all the way to the state 4A championships at the Tacoma Dome this February.

“We have three strong returners, Brianne Gould, Lynnsey Thielman and Becca Peterson,” Boyd said. “And then we have three new kids this year, Kayla Shira, Brenna Bickel and Katie Steckler.”

Add in junior Janae Long, and Boyd contends that the Falcons are “seven deep on every event.”

Last season Gould finished 35th in the all-around, powered by a 10th place, 8.250 finish on the beam.

“She’s definitely a leader,” Boyd said. “She leads by example and is a really good kid, always on time with a real positive attitude. She’s a steady consistent athlete. She doesn’t do anything over the top difficulty-wise. She’s just really consistent.”

In addition to Gould, the Falcons roster is chock-full of quality athletes, including state competitors, sophomores Peterson and Thielman, 39th and 60th in the 4A all-around respectively.

“I have a lot of individuals that have good leadership qualities,” Boyd said. “I just told them to step up when they need to. We focus more on the team than the individual. We always talk about how they, as individuals, can improve the team score. The team has really bought into that. I’ll have kids coming up to me and asking, ‘if I add this, how will it help the team?’”

In addition to the returners, Kentlake should get a lift from Shira, a Level 10 club gymnast with Auburn Gymnastics, who is competing for the first time as a prep athlete.

“She actually expressed last year that she wanted to do high school gymnastics,” Boyd said. “But she couldn’t quite do it because of everything else she had going on. This year she came into my office and just said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ She’s excited and has been a great addition to the team.”

And this year for the Falcons, it’s all about getting to the state meet as a team.

“Our goal is to qualify for state as a team,” Boyd said. “Right now we’re focusing on that. Even though we hit the 170, we’re still working on getting better.”

“I think this year people have come back a lot stronger,” Gould added. “This year they seem to be a lot more motivated and are working really hard because we know we have that potential. We just want to improve and do the best that we can every meet.”

KM’s Keith looks to drive Royals

This year’s Kent-Meridian gymnastics team will look to junior Nora Keith to help pace the team.

Last season Keith competed in her second-straight Washington State 4A meet, taking home seventh-place in the vault with a 9.350 score and finishing 34th in the all-around with 26.3 points.

“I really was happy with my performance,” Keith said. “I pretty much went out and did the best vault that I could. And it worked out pretty well.”

This season, Keith said she hopes to qualify for the state tourney for the third time and better her finish in the vault. She added that she also hopes to compete in the all-around again.

“I’m very convinced that I’m better this year,” she said. “I really want to go into sub-districts, districts and state meets stronger and more confident.

Kent Meridian head coach Rachel Watanabe said Keith’s goals are definitely within her grasp.

“She’s really competitive,” she said. “She always likes to do her absolute best and is not satisfied if she doesn’t. She’s one of my captains. It’s her second year as captain, and she is such an asset.”

Aiding Keith in her quest for postseason glory this season will be the rest of the Kent-Meridian team.

“They’re looking pretty good,” Watanabe said. “I’ve got a couple of other girls that are making a bit of progress.”

In addition to senior Savannah Diaz, the Royals are also looking to sophomores Kim Concillado and Jenna Crain.

“They were on the team last year,” Watanabe said. “Those two are really pushing Nora this year. We have so many kids that are versatile. They just have fun together. I’m lucky that I have them, and they’re all really supportive of each other.”

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FIVE TO WATCH:

Rebecca Turnbow, Auburn Riverside, All-around, Jr. Notable: Turnbow suffered two ankle injuries, one in the district meet and one at state, and still managed an 80th place finish at the 3A meet.

Brianne Gould, Kentlake, All-around, beam, Jr. Notable: Gould was 10th on the beam at the 4A state meet last season.

Kayla Shira, Kentlake, All-around, Sr. Notable: A level 10 club gymnast, Shira already has a 37.0 point all-around performance this season.

Nora Keith, Kent-Meridian, Vault, Jr. Notable: Keith was seventh in the vault at last season’s 4A state meet.

Alexis Moore, Auburn, All-around, Soph. Notable: Moore was 33rd overall in the 3A state meet all-around competition last season.

CIRCLE THE CALENDAR:

— Kent-Meridian, Auburn at Auburn Riverside, 7 p.m. Jan. 14: The Royals and Trojans will test their mettle against powerhouse Auburn Riverside.

­­— Kentwood, Kentlake, Kent-Meridian at Kentridge, 7 p.m. Jan. 28: Defending all-city champs Kentlake will look to secure bragging rights for another year.

— Auburn Mountainview, Auburn Riverside at Auburn, 7 p.m. Jan. 28: All-city meet will determine who’s top of the heap in Auburn.

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