BELLINGHAM - Madi Krussow just grins in acknowledgement when asked if her first name is constantly misspelled.
It's not hard, however, to remember how to spell it. The unusual single "D" in Madi surely can stand for determination.
In her first season of gymnastics since age 12, the nimble 5-foot-2 Squalicum junior overcame nerves to sweep all four events while earning all-around honors in the 40th Sehome Gymnastics Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 5.
The three Bellingham schools, coached in a single program by Doriane Gunnels and assistant Debbie Henrichs, all felt like winners while celebrating what fans call "the local high school sport that refuses to die" with their only home meet.
Bellingham junior Ellie Kindlund led the Red Raiders to the title of the five-team event with 127.8 points, followed by Squalicum (121.35), Shorewood (107.2), Sehome (102.8) and Shorecrest (96.3).
"I wasn't sure about myself today," said Krussow, who scored 32.4 points to turn back strong all-around challenges from Sehome sophomore Zoe Bunnell (30.5) and Kindlund (29.2). "I really had a case of nerves. I was really excited."
Krussow showed her bent for theatrics by sternly testing herself in the floor exercise to a challenging theme from "Harry Potter."
"I love Harry Potter!" she said.
Like Harry, she seems to have magical skills, considering she recently placed seventh in Class 2A diving in her first season in the sport following a sixth place in the pole vault last spring. It would not be a shock to see her bid for a gymnastics medal next month.
"I wanted to try new things," Krussow said, explaining both her adventurous sports spirit and her winning scores in the floor exercise (8.8), beam (8.1), vault (8.3) and bars (7.2).
Bunnell, meanwhile, is grateful she didn't give up an old thing - her lifelong love of gymnastics. She was a Level 7 competitor but decided she needed more time to focus on academics - she wants to study sports medicine - and so gave up club gymnastics last school year.
"I had a back injury and club gym was really hard on it, but gymnastics has always been a part of my life," said Bunnell, her team's captain. "Doriane is a really great coach and I connected with her right away."
Bunnell discovered a bonus - the spirit involved in being part of the three-school program, which has attracted 20 girls. It's nearly double the turnout during several seasons in Gunnels' decade-plus coaching career.
"It's really awesome to be a part of this," said Bunnell, who finished second in the vault (8.2) and bars (6.8), third in floor (8.2) ad fourth in beam (7.3). She was especially impressive while "sticking" a vault landing.
Kindlund, who would love to attract college scholarship interest as a diver, provided one of the highlights in her unusual use of a springboard to successfully mount the balance beam in her first meet of the season.
"I think I fell about half the time last year," said Kindlund, who competed with a heavily taped left ankle. "I almost fell this time. I don't think it adds anything to my scores, but I chose (the springboard) just to have some extra fun."
Kindlund has a 4.0 grade-point average and would like to become a Bellingham valedictorian despite numerous AP classes. She was thrilled to at last compete in her home town.
"Last year (when the meet was held outside town) we didn't have it. It's great," said Kindlund, who was third in three events and fourth in floor exercise.
Gunnels broke into tears while introducing the only two seniors in her program, Squalicum captain Anna Detsikas and Bellingham co-captain Mychal Smith, both of whom have competed all four years. The two girls also cried freely as the crowd applauded them.
"They're like daughters to me and they've grown into such great leaders," the emotional Gunnels said.
Smith said she would recommend gymnastics to any girl.
"Definitely, definitely give it a shot," Smith said. "I'm so glad I did. I wound up really loving gymnastics. I like how everybody from all three schools roots for each other."
Detsikas was thrilled with her career-best vault, a 7.7 for sixth place. A lifelong dancer, the effervescent senior said she took up gymnastics as a freshman at her mother's recommendation and is bidding for her fourth district berth.
"My mom always wanted me to be a gymnast and high school gymnastics has given me that chance," said Detsikas. "I found out I was pretty good for never having done gymnastics. Every year, I have improved so much. Doriane has been like a second mom to me."
Bellingham co-captain Natasha Aven, a co-captain who won three top ten ribbons, figures she'll be among the seniors shedding tears when introduced next year at this meet.
"Before I came to high school, I was a very demanding leader, like it was my way or the highway," said Aven, a leader who resembles a coach on the floor. "But I grew into gymnastics and became more mature. There's a great family aspect to our (three-school) team."
Other locals in the all-around top ten were Sehome freshman Catalina Fitzpatrick (fourth), Bellingham junior Aerial McGavock (fifth), Bellingham freshman Rachel Cornwall (seventh), Aven (ninth) and Squalicum freshman Sienna Tukaee (tenth).
SEHOME GYMNASTICS INVITATIONAL
Team scores: Bellingham 127.8, 2. Squalicum 121.35, 3. Shorewood 107.2, 4. Sehome 102.8, 5. Shorecrest 96.3.
Local ribbon winners (top 10)
All-around: 1. Madi Krussow (Sq) 32.4, 2. Zoe Bunnell (Se) 30.5, 3. Ellie Kindlund (29.2), 4. Catalina Fitzpatrick (Se) 28.0, 5. Aerial McGavock (Bell) 27.7, 7. Rachel Cornwall (Bell) 25.1, 9. Natasha Aven (Se) 23.2, 10. Sienna Tukaee 22.5.
Vault: 1. Krussow 8.3, 2. Bunnell 8.2, 3. Kindlund 7.9, 4. Fitzpatrick 7.8, 6. Anna Detsikas (Sq) 7.7, 8. Aven 7.5.
Bars: 1. Krussow 7.2, 2. Bunnell 6.8, 3. Kindlund 6.2, 4. Fitzpatrick 5.9, 5. Shea Walker (Bell) 5.5, 6. Sage Stevenson (Bell) 4.8, 7. Tukaee 4.6, 8. Amanda Tapporo (Sq) 4.5, 10. Cornwall 4.3.
Beam: 1. Krussow 8.1, 2. McGavock 7.6, 3. Kindlund 7.4, 4. Bunnell 7.3; 5. Cornwall 7.2, 6. Aven 7.0, 7. Fitzpatrick 6.7, 10. Shea Walker (Bell) 5.9.
Floor exercise: 1. Krussow 8.8, 2. McGavock 8.6, 3. Bunnell 8.2, 4. Kindlund 7.7, 5. Fitzpatrick 7.6, 9. Cornwall 6.3