Lake Washington’s Pence makes an impact on the gymnastics scene

Kang shines on the floor and can quote ‘The Princess Bride.’

Lake Washington’s senior gymnast Joeli Pence is a leader and teacher through and through. With the Kangs, she’s helped take the squad to a 3-0 record in 2A/3A KingCo (4-0 overall) and a third-place finish at last season’s state meet.

When she’s not on the high school scene, Pence coaches young gymnasts.

On her love for that role, she said, “I really like figuring out how to teach things, and I also like being with kids and encouraging them.”

The Kangs notched a 176-160 victory over Mercer Island on Jan. 17 at Woodinville High and will next take the gymnastics stage at 7 p.m. Jan. 25 at Juanita High.

This year’s Kang squad is different than past years and consists of lots of stellar freshmen and sophomores, many of whom come to LW from the club realm, Pence said. It’s been fun becoming acquainted with each other and combining their talents into a strong squad.

LW’s top event is the floor routine: “It’s all our favorite and it’s definitely the one that we score the highest on,” Pence said. “Most of us like tumbling and we also, at least a lot of us, really like the performance in it.”

Pence, who has competed in gymnastics since the fifth grade and been to the 3A state meet three times, also hones her skills with the Xcel program. She said that possessing confidence and focus are key factors in excelling in the sport.

Her goal while tackling the floor, beam, bars and vault is to work toward perfecting all the various skills that emerge during those events.

On what drew her to gymnastics, Pence adds, “I think it’s because it’s just really interesting to me, and there’s always something to do and always new things to learn and goals to make. It makes more sense to me than other sports.”

The Reporter asked Pence a series of questions for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into her life.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t beat yourself up, ‘cause I tend to be really critical of myself. Remembering that I don’t have to prove myself — that’s important for me.

Anyone you look up to that’s influenced you in your life?

I’ve always had really good relationships with my parents and looked up to them a lot.

If you could learn one special skill, what would it be?

Gymnastics related, at some point in my life, I really wanna get a press handstand. I’ve learned Spanish in school and I wanna get better at that. If I could learn Chinese, that would be really cool, too.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

In gymnastics, it’s when people have great tumbling in their floor routines, but they don’t dance. I know it’s not easy for everyone…

What’s your favorite meal that you cook at home?

My mom makes lentil soup a lot. When I was younger, I didn’t like anything healthy, but I did like lentil soup, so that’s kind of special.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I kind of just like a variety. A lot of times, if I hear a new song, I’ll not like it at first, especially if it’s kind of weird. But then after a little bit, I’ll really like it just ‘cause it’s different.

What’s your favorite movie of all time?

“The Princess Bride,” at least when I was younger, I really liked that movie. And I know most of the quotes from it. The first one I can think of is the one about, “Anybody want a peanut?” (“No more rhymes now, I mean it…” is the beginning.)

What superpower would you want?

I wanna change into any animal because then you can have any superpower. Shape shifting.