Squad fields all-around talent

This year’s switch to the Metro League has at least two benefits for the gymnastics team. No more long bus rides to Port Angeles. And no more snubs at the Metro League Tournament awards ceremony.

The first is obvious. The second requires a bit of explanation.

In previous years, Bainbridge was the only 3A team in District 3 with a gymnastics program. While it might have been simpler to advance the Spartans directly to district competition – which actually happens at the 4A level with North Kitsap and Port Angeles – the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association forced Metro to include Bainbridge in its league championship meet.

But that meet also served as the district qualifiers, and Bainbridge’s second-place team finish kept one Metro squad from advancing as a team.

Hence the rancor as Spartan gymnasts were denied public recognition of their awards, even though Bainbridge frequently competed against Metro schools during the regular season.

But with Bainbridge now an official Metro member, the Spartans will no longer be regarded as interlopers and shouldn’t encounter any difficulties in claiming their ribbons.

They may claim a significant proportion of this season’s awards, as coach Cindy Guy welcomes a larger-than-usual senior class, with five members of the class of 2002 heading up a group of 18 girls that also includes eight freshmen.

Stephanie Hylen – the team’s lone returning entry from last year’s state meet – and Nicole Bemis, who qualified for district competition last year, are co-captains.

The other seniors are Jacque Alsonso, Darby Cahill and Pam LeGendre. Alison Kramer and Emily Roche are the team’s two juniors. Sophomores are Dana Cuykendall plus Michigan transfers Lizzy Kidd and Abby Kidd. The freshman class, which Guy terms “hard-working and quick learners,” includes Beth Allen, Brittany Belt, Jessica Dunlap, Nissa Kahle, Carrie Kirkpatrick, Sonja McBride, Brooke Nall and Kelsey Roe.

Eight girls, including three freshmen, are slated to compete in all-around, which means they enter all four events – beam, bars, floor and vault – in every meet. They are Belt, Cahill, Cuykendall, Hylen, Kirkpatrick, Kramer, Nall and Roche. Everyone else will do at least two events.

They’ll all face what Guy calls “major changes in judging.”

For example, the minimum length of beam routines has been reduced from a minute and ten seconds to 30 seconds.

“Now all they have to do is hit the requirements and get off the equipment,” she said. “They don’t have to fill up a lot of extra time with turns.”

New vault rules will emphasize handsprings over straddle hops, which somewhat resemble leapfrogging.

“It’s a whole new challenge as a coach, with new routines and new scoring,” Guy said.

“I don’t know how we’ll do this season, with the new rules and some competition we haven’t seen before,” Hylen added.

Despite the uncertainty, Guy is upbeat.

“These changes will help a team like Bainbridge, with moves that are clean and neat,” she said.

Hylen shares her coach’s optimism.

“If I go to state, I won’t be alone,” she said.

The team opens the season on Friday at Nathan Hale. The first home competition comes on Thursday, Dec. 13 as the team hosts Shorewood and Shorecrest.

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