The Spartans don’t have the numbers on their side this year.
But Cindy Guy, Bainbridge High’s gymnastics coach for the past 39 seasons, isn’t worried.
Her smaller squad of returning athletes — complemented by some notable additions — have shown up rested and ready, skilled and strong.
Good thing, too. The Spartans will open the season on Friday, Dec. 1 at Ballard High with only six team practice’s under their belt.
“We’re very happy,” Guy said. “They all look really strong.”
Turnout this year was a bit lower than usual. That’s because a number of Spartans in the gymnastic program typically from a dance background, and the junior varsity team has bolstered with dancers and cheerleaders. With some of those players moving on to varsity cheer, or facing other scheduling conflicts, the gymnastics team has found itself with a roster about half the size of its traditional 30-or-more membership.
But that’s been a blessing in disguise.
With fewer athletes to manage, the limited number of practices has been reconfigured and gymnasts are getting more time than in the past to work on their different events.
“What we’ve found in the last few years, we’ve been managing 35 gymnasts on average. And in a short period of practice time, we’re very limited in what we can do,” Guy explained.
But with smaller groups, the athletes each have more time to spend on their routines.
“We’re getting half-an-hour rotations per event, where in the past we could only do 20 minutes, because we had to do three rotations with such extremely big groups,” Guy said.
Practices have been split up with a focus on bars and floor exercise on Mondays and Wednesdays, with beam and vault on Tuesdays and Thursdays (and meets on Fridays).
The intensified effort has put the Spartans ahead of where they would usually be in the season so far.
“We’re feeling really good about the season,” Guy said. “They have their floor and beam routines down.
“Our vaults look pretty good, too,” Guy said, noting that Mariko Ronan and newcomer Kati Cooper can both throw Tsukaharas (a vault with a turn off the springboard and a push into a back flip).
Ronan and Cooper will also be starting the season with two optional bars.
“I’m delighted that the returning varsity kids came in with their skills in good shape and ready to compete,” Guy said.
Some have new music and new routines, which will need some cleaning up but are looking pretty solid so far.
“But in the first week of practice, we were doing full beam routines, which is amazing,” Guy said.
The Spartan squad this year is made up of mostly underclassmen, and meet competition will be missing a few familiar names this season due to injury. Morgan Derickx, a competitor for the Spartans last year at state, won’t compete after tearing her ACL at State last year, and Siqi Talley has a torn shoulder and is also out.
In addition to Ronan, the Spartans also boast returning varsity members Emma Chee (team captain), Remi Rosencrans, Alathea Pippinger (team captain), Karesse Pippinger, Keagan Daniels, Nicole Holmes, Karena Klinkenberg and Lina Klinkenberg.
Of the returners, Ronan, Rosencrans, Daniels, and Alathea and Karesse Pippinger advanced to the state championships last season.
The team is rounded out by Noelle Chymiy, Tate Goff, Sydney Johnson, Sarah Jung, Paige Montgomery and Laura Murphy.
The first meet at Ballard will include gymnasts from Ingraham and Nathan Hale.
But Ballard will bring it, Guy said.
“They have always been a challenge for us, but we’ll see how that goes,” she said.
The schedule following is relatively smooth sailing for Bainbridge, with a two-meet home stand capped by a non-league matchup against Shorecrest and Shorewood before the holiday break.
The next tough test is in mid-January, when Bainbridge hosts Ballard and Holy Names Academy.
“We’ll see how we stack up against Holy Names; Ballard and Holy Names are probably going to be the challenge,” Guy said, noting that both typically field squads with a lot of gymnastic talent.
For the Spartans, however, Guy said they are beginning their season in good shape.
Guy and fellow gymnastics coach Bryan Garoutte put the girls through a beam challenge, which the Spartans normally do mid-season.
The athletes are usually graded during the challenge with an eye toward areas of improvement. Not so this season.
“This year we didn’t have to worry about it. They have everything in their routines,” Guy said.
“Hopefully we’ll see how we score in the first meet,” she added. “But they are very motivated. And they love gymnastics — and that’s what it’s all about.”