Lake Washington and Juanita’s prep gymnastics squads may compete against each other in the 3A KingCo conference, but that’s where the dividing line ends.
Aside from scores and team colors, the Kangs and the Rebels are one big family that feeds off each other’s success, said Juanita’s Emma Harrington with a smile during the teams’ dual training session at Northwest Aerials in Kirkland on Monday afternoon.
Girls were running, flipping, jumping and cheering — having an enjoyable time with each other.
“Our team just loves gymnastics. They love being here, they love learning new skills and that’s exciting to coach,” said LW coach Katie Perrigoue. “They are really excited for every meet and they’re waiting ’till the end of the meet to hear that score to see if they’ve gotten better than the week before.”
Juanita’s gymnasts and coach Samantha Hanson echoed those thoughts while discussing their squad, which has nailed a new top team score each meet, Harrington said.
At press time, LW was 5-0 and sitting atop the league standings while Juanita sported a 3-2 mark. LW’s best team mark is 164 and Juanita has racked up a 152; the Kangs’ top mark last year was 173.9 at districts.
“We’re all so supportive with each other. I feel like we all just get along so well,” said Juanita junior Abbie Holand, adding that she loves the gymnastics environment, especially when everyone’s cheering and yelling, “‘You can do this, you can do this’ — it makes you kind of build up your confidence.”
Holand gets a little antsy and nervous during competitions, but is thrilled with the outcome.
“Once you improve in a skill, you have so much happiness and rush to you and you’re like, ‘I can do anything,’” she said.
Local gymnasts were overflowing with achievements last season, with LW winning the KingCo postseason meet and taking third at state, and a plethora of girls from both squads notching stellar individual results at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.
Tops was LW’s Audrey Arnold, who as a freshman tied for first on floor (9.6), and took third all around (37.225), tied for fourth on bars, eighth on beam and 12th on vault.
On Arnold’s floor performances, Perrigoue beamed: “She was amazing. Whenever her floor music comes on, every head turns. She just performs so well. She’s so energetic and just so wonderful to have on the team ‘cause she’s so encouraging and inspiring and always has a good attitude.”
Arnold thrives on being an entertainer during meets.
“I love performing, and I feel that once you get out on the floor, it’s just you out there — it’s really fun,” she said.
Other top gymnasts for LW are senior Kaysha Walford, who finished second on bars at state, took fifth all around and tied for sixth on floor; senior Paige Chickering, who took fifth at state on beam and choreographs her own floor routines; junior Joeli Pence, who tied for 11th at state on floor and has improved each year in all events; and freshman Sydney Rabuchin, who is solid in all events.
Perrigoue said her squad is overcoming some injuries and hopes to have a full roster once districts arrives. Arnold added that some freshmen have stepped up and put LW in a good spot in the standings.
“I think that’s really helpful for when a lot of us haven’t been competing or at our best yet,” Arnold said.
Walford said that following last year’s success, the team is closer and she envisions great things happening in the next month.
“Last year, we went into districts and state not thinking that we were gonna do as good as we did. I think when we all got together and were super supportive — we’re a super big family — and if any of us had a problem, we can come to each other and talk to each other about it,” said Walford, who lists bars as her favorite event because, “I just like swinging. I feel free.”
Juanita’s Harrington, a sophomore, is also a floor fiend and has been notching first with 9s this season. She’s in a good mental zone when teammates are rooting for her during meets. Even if gymnasts make a mistake, the cheering continues and they push hard to finish on a high note, she said.
Continuing Arnold’s floor analysis, Harrington offered that, “You’re not thinking about the next event. You’re not thinking about your math homework. You’re not thinking about anything except for what you have to do.”
Juanita coach Hanson’s eyes light up when she discusses Harrington, who is one of the captains and has been nailing first-place 9s on vault as well. Harrington capped off last season by competing in the all-around competition at state.
“She’s enthusiastic and she’s willing to try new things. She’s also someone who has a lot of fun and has a lot of drive within her. She’s little and she’s fierce and she can get the job done,” Hanson said.
Also shining in the gym for Juanita are sophomore Daphanie Chan, a graceful athlete who tied for sixth on state beam last year; sophomore Maria Vlad, who has been producing some stellar vault and beam performances; and sophomore leader Allison Holck, who has pushed herself to rebound from a knee injury and is now competing all around.
Hanson looked around the gym at the girls and noted that Juanita’s goal is to improve on last year’s results and qualify for districts. The coach feels the girls possess a ton of talent and drive to succeed in sports and life.
“It’s really fun to watch them grow as people and as gymnasts,” she said.