Gymnastics in Bellingham on the rise


A poster was thought to have been torn from the walls at Sehome High School promoting the upcoming Washington Open Winter Invitational girls' gymnastics meet on Saturday, Jan. 11.

Doriane Gunnels, who coaches the gymnastics team comprised of girls from Sehome, Squalicum and Bellingham high schools, heard the chatter at practice that afternoon. They were upset - all of them, she said.

There was no faction-mentality amongst them. What hurt one hurt them all, she said.

"The other (girls) were like, 'That's not fair. They can't do that,'" Gunnels said in a phone interview. "Squalicum and the other captains stepped up and made another one. One captain said, 'We're going to make two of them.' They are there to support each other. If something goes wrong - if you're badmouthing one school, you're badmouthing the whole team."

Turns out the poster simply fell down, but it spoke to a point Gunnels has come to cherish about her team comprised of girls from the three Bellingham-based high schools: There is no petty rivalry between them. Gymnastics is the common thread amongst them.

"We are a varsity team and we stand united," she said.

Gunnels and her assistant coaches, Debbie Henrichs, Asha Lorden and Aja Ruswick, have seen their numbers grow in recent years, with this year's 26 girls being near a high-water mark of sorts for the program. The team will be competing in the Washington Open Winter Invitational girls' gymnastics meet starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11, at Sehome High School, with several other schools from around the state making the trip to compete in the sanctioned event. The girls will compete in four events - the vault, bars, beam and floor, and there will be no overall title awarded.

Hosting this particular event is a win of sorts for Gunnels and the gymnastics community in Bellingham because drawing teams from around the state has been a struggle.

"School districts are not willing to pay for them (to travel) overnight," Gunnels said. "Their fundings are so small. ... They have to either raise it themselves or ask for it (in) the budget."

When the organization running the event approached Gunnels about hosting it, the proposition offered, as she said, a chance to put Bellingham "back on the map."

Gunnels highlighted three girls - one from each of the three high schools - that are fundamental pieces to her team this year.


Sr., Squalicum

"She made it to finals at state last year, and she is simply outstanding," Gunnels said of Krussow. "Humble. ... She is a leader and she comes across as a leader willing to take the bull by the horns. ... She is down to earth where she can (help) other girls working on their cartwheels."


Sr., Bellingham

"She came to me with an amazing dance background. Her dance is gorgeous, amazing and beautiful," Gunnels said of McGavock. "She wows me. ... It shows her dedication to the team and her commitment to improve herself. ... She is a wonderful leader and she supports every person on the team."


So., Sehome

"She has just really stepped up to the plate," Gunnels said of Fitzpatrick. "She is so mature and a hard worker. So focused in the gym - continually wants to learn new skills. ... She really does shine on the floor. Her dance is beautiful and she sticks her jumps, and that is very important for gymnastics. She is clean. She is crisp - very fluent in her dance. That all adds together in a beautiful routine."

Reach Alex Bigelow at or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.


When: 10 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 11

Where: Sehome High School

Price: $5 for ages 5 and up

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