BELLINGHAM -- Madi Krussow dearly wishes she had two more years to participate in gymnastics.
Fellow Squalicum senior Paige Spore is grateful she mustered the courage to turn out for gymnastics as a freshman and to stick with it four years as her only high school sport.
They well represented the spirit displayed by the Bellingham/Sehome/Squalicum team in their only home meet. But this time, the local girls were proud to host the largest meet in Doriane Gunnels' 13 seasons as the three-school coach.
"Fifteen teams in the two sections and 120 girls," Gunnels said with a grin, while expressing her own enthusiasm for the Washington Open Winter Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 11, at Sehome High School.
Krussow, already a three-sport Class 2A state participant, posted the highest local scores, to no one's surprise, while winning three ribbons including the highest local score to tie for fifth in a talent-packed floor exercise (9.15).
"I'm so glad I came back to gymnastics last year (after being out of the sport since she was 12)," Krussow said. "But I don't think I would appreciate gymnastics as much as I do, if I hadn't been away from it so long."
Krussow, who hopes to earn a college scholarship for her pole vaulting, is all too aware that her gymnastics days are dwindling to a precious few.
"Now I really wish I had done diving (which she also began as a junior and placed second in at state as a senior) and gymnastics for all four years along with the pole vault," she said. "In a way, I feel like I should have two more years in sports at Squalicum."
Gunnels gets emotional when she talks about all six of her seniors, whom she honored before the meet. They also include Bellingham's Ariel McGavock and Hailey Colgrove and Squalicum's Caroline Sullivan and Tiffany Jiminez.
Of the current senior class, only Spore has participated all four years.
"I just love gymnastics. I like learning the different skills and getting that feeling of accomplishment," said Spore, who is taking a full load of Running Start classes at Whatcom Community College -- no small feat for an athlete.
"I've learned to manage my time pretty well," she said.
Spore will consider the season an unqualified success if she makes it to district competition for the first time. But no matter what, she recommends that middle school girls seriously consider the sport.
"My mom tried to encourage me to try club gymnastics, but I guess I was scared," said Spore, who noted how Gunnels and her assistants quickly took away her fears when she finally decided to try the sport.
Gunnels said she noticed Krussow's spirit right away last year, as well as her athletic ability.
"A spark, she provides a spark and definitely leadership," Gunnels said of Krussow, who was ninth at state last year in floor exercise, where she can express her considerable creativity. "She's got a good head on her shoulders. She's the kind of girl you want your daughter to grow up to be."
McGavock, who earned two ribbons, didn't try high school sports until she was a junior, having pursued cheer and dance.
"I remember walking into the first day of summer practice," she said. "I think I was the only junior and the rest (of the newcomers) were freshmen. We were all nervous together."
Like Krussow, now McGavock strongly feels she will miss gymnastics, no matter how such success she might have as a college diver if she chooses to walk on somewhere.
"I just love the adrenaline," McGavock said. "I love the challenge of overcoming mental blocks. I would tell any girl to try gymnastics, because you don't need a lot of experience (to enjoy turning out in Gunnels' program). And what's really great is that every time one of the girls learns a new skill, we all burst into cheers for her. That's a lot of the fun."
There was plenty of cheering Saturday, although no team scores were kept and no all-around winner was declared. Girls were encouraged to participate in as many or as few of the four events as they wished.
The ribbons formerly was given out 15 for each event for Sehome's home meet, but this time there was a complicated formula involving different numbers of ribbons awarded in several divisions of different events.
Sehome's Shea Walker won three ribbons and teammates Catalina Gibbons and Catalina Fitzpatrick won two each.
There was also, as always, the post-meet walking handstand competition by class. Fittingly, Krussow won the senior event and finished second overall, while Gunnels claimed the coaches' title.
"Not bad for an old lady," someone cheered, and Gunnels just grinned, in keeping with the spirit of the day.
WASHINGTON OPEN WINTER INVITATIONAL
No team or all-around scores were kept.
Local ribbon winners and scores by division:
Vault (Gabby division): 5. Catalina Gibbons (Se) 8.0; 10. tie. Ariel McGavock (Bell) 7.5; 13. tie. Catalina Fitzpatrick (Se) 7.4. Simone division: 2. tie Maddi Krussow (Sq) 8.7.
Floor exercise (Gabby division): 5. Ivana Witt (Sq) 6.3. Nastia division: 5. tie Maddi Krussow (Sq) 9.15. Simone division: 6. tie Shea Walker (Se) and Catalina Fitzpatrick (Se) 7.0.
Beam: (Gabby division): 2. Hailey Colgrove (Bell) 5.2; 4. Melissa Schedlin (Se) 3.6; 5. Camryn Wood (Se) 3.5. Nastia division: 12. Maddi Krussow (Sq) 7.5. Simone division: 6. Shea Walker (Se) 6.6, 8. tie Sienna Takabe (Sq) 5.7.
Bars (Gabby division): 1. Ariel McGavock (Bell) 4.45; 2. Rylie Brown (Se) 4.4; 3. Tiffany Jimenez (Sq) 4.4; 4. Paige Spore (Sq) 4.35; 5. Tanya Kobe (Sq) 4.3. Jordyn division: 2. Catalina Gibbons (Se) 6.9. Simone division: 4. tie Shea Walker (Se) 6.1. Svetlana division: Maddi Krussow (Sq) had non-ribbon 7.2 for highest local score.