GYMNASTICS: Kamiakin, Southridge gymnasts head to Seattle

Tri-City HeraldJanuary 4, 2013 

The field of competition will widen considerably for the Kamiakin and Southridge gymnastics teams this weekend.

Both teams are entered in the Washington Open Winter Invitational in Seattle. The Mid-Columbia Conference rivals will represent the east side in the second session today against 2012 Class 1A/2A/3A state runner-up Columbia River, Holy Names, Olympia, Port Angeles and host Roosevelt.

The first session consists of defending Class 4A state champion Mead, Shorewood, Shoreline, Newport, Skyline, Ballard, Central Valley and Nathan Hale.

“This is a good meet to let the girls see what is actually out there and what will be there for state,” Kamiakin coach Sarah Garrett said.

Until today, Southridge has been Kamiakin’s only true team opponent this season, and vice versa.

The Richland School Board decided last spring to phase out gymnastics at Richland and Hanford. The remaining gymnasts at both schools were allowed to compete through their senior seasons as part of a co-op agreement in which they would practice with Kamiakin but represent their schools at meets.

Richland gymnast Carly Garland decided not to come out for her final season, but sophomore Kayla Lasater is competing for Hanford. She will be part of Kamiakin’s group today.

The Washington Open is the only out-of-area competition the Tri-City gymnasts will attend before state. Districts will be held at Garland’s Gymnastics in Kennewick, and Southridge will host regionals.

“That’s always one of the problems of being stuck in the Tri-Cities for the regular season is we don’t get to see other people,” Southridge coach Heidi Fryer said. “We see the same judges every week, the same competition every week. It gets a little monotonous, so this will be nice.”

Eleven girls will compete today for Southridge, including sophomore Mikaela Thepvongsa, who is entered in all four events, and captains Kayla Melvin, Jacqie Leibold and Shwe Zin.

Seven gymnasts will represent Kamiakin, which has won both conference meets this season.

In the Dec. 5 opener, Kamiakin’s Kelsey Jaquish took the all-around, vault, bars and beam, and fellow junior Danielle Brandon was the winner on the floor.

A week later, Brandon was first in the all-around after winning the beam and floor. Jaquish was the vault champion, and freshman teammate Saige Polanik won on the bars.

“We have girls that have been in different clubs, and they’re all going to the same high school and they’re on the same team, but they’re all encouraging each other, and they’re an actual team,” Garrett said. “They want the best for each other.”

In addition to a potential team title, several Braves could vie for the Washington Open overall all-around title won last year by Southridge’s Kiya Bjorge. The reigning 1A/2A/3A state all-around champion won’t be back to defend either crown: She quit the high school gymnastics team after one season to focus on her club career.

Polanik won’t be available today, however. She hit her head and suffered a concussion while cheerleading at a Kamiakin basketball game and will be out at least a couple more weeks.

“She’s not very happy with me right now,” Garrett said. “She’s not released, and she hasn’t been able to do anything. She’s one of my top five, and she’s a competitor. She likes to compete.”

Once Polanik returns, the Braves will be at full strength — a scary omen for other teams, perhaps. Kamiakin won the state team title in 2011, and four gymnasts from that squad — Brandon, Michelle Fletcher, Jessica Anderson and Brittany Lofton — are back this season.

“I don’t think I have any girls that won’t make it to state,” Garrett said.

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