Juanita’s gymnasts are stoked on the number 168.
On hitting the Rebels’ historic school program score in a victory over Liberty last month, senior Emma Harrington said with a smile that they “can only go up from here.” Head coach Samantha Hanson, whose team was 2-0 in 3A KingCo at press time, said the score is a boost for the program.
“This year we really worked hard on bonding in and out of the gym. Fresh out of tryouts, we thought we started with a very clear mindset of what we’re gonna do and having efficient practices and trying to get as much done as we can,” said Harrington, who noted that Juanita’s top score was achieved during just the second meet of the season and with some Rebels out with injuries.
With everyone returning to the squad after winter break, Harrington would like to see them continue beating that top score. The team is stacked with leaders and heaps of energy, according to Harrington and fellow senior Allie Holck.
“Everyone’s so happy to be there. Even if you mess up, you know you always have your team behind you, boosting you up. It’s really nice to do your routine and hear everyone screaming behind you ‘cause they’re so excited to see you succeed,” Holck said.
Juanita is coming off some stellar state performances last season: Harrington tied for fifth on beam; senior Allison Lofquist tied for third on floor, took fifth on vault and placed eighth all around; and sophomore Gloria Wang nailed eighth on bars. Senior Maria Vlad also competed at state last year and senior Daphanie Chan is back for her final year after placing at state as a freshman and sophomore.
Those girls are all posting solid scores this season, said Hanson, who is joined by assistant coach Megan Dixon this year.
“They work really well together and they’re just so invested in us excelling,” Lofquist said.
Added Hanson: “In the four years that I’ve been here, there’s been a ton of growth. This year specifically has been really special, given that the kids I started with as freshmen are now in their senior year, so it’s super fun.”
Hanson said that 3A KingCo teams along with Seattle 3A squads Holy Names Academy and Ballard are some of the most competitive in the state. Juanita’s gymnasts worked on upping their skills over the winter break and the Rebels are set for more league action.
The coach said they are pushing themselves to achieve bigger scores.
“I think that mental strength is just as important as physical strength, and (we’re) trying to build that confidence in the girls and in their skills. When you feel good, you go out there and you do well,” Hanson said.
For Harrington, her favorite event is floor but she’s thrilled with her improvement on bars by notching a cast handstand pirouette and a giant layout full dismount. Holck has given a nod to the beam since her club days, noting that balance and focus are keys to success on that tough event. She’s especially pleased with her cartwheel roundoffs on the beam, Holck added.
As for Lofquist, she gravitates toward the floor routine when discussing her favorites list.
“I just love being out there and just letting loose and being myself and just having a routine that’s personalized to my style,” said Lofquist, adding that it’s fun to tumble and throw a variety of leaping and flipping skills on floor.
Lofquist and Holck said that staying relaxed, supporting their teammates and forming a strong bond will take the Rebels far this season.