Nine gymnasts from the Bellingham schools will be competing in the Class 1A/2A/3A State Championships at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall from Feb. 20-21.
But what stands out from the nine gymnasts is the fact that only one gymnast, Sehome’s Cat Gibbons, will be finishing her high school career when the championships come to an end.
With eight of the nine gymnasts returning, Doriane Gunnels, coach of the trio of Bellingham schools, is excited about what this means for the program.
“Our program is getting the due attention it deserves. Girls want to be a part of it because it is a fun program,” Gunnels said. “They get the spotlight they deserve and the recognition for their hard work and amazing talent.”
That amazing talent the gymnasts have is capped off by Sehome freshman Erin Eiswald, the only local gymnast to be competing in the all-around at the state championships this year.
“Erin has been a great addition to the team. She brings talent and a new perspective. Definitely a gymnast that enjoys the sport and wants to continue doing it because she has love for the sport,” Gunnels said.
With Eiswald only being a freshman, Gunnels mentioned she didn’t realize what talent would be coming up from the middle schools.
Competing in the all-around, Eiswald will be showcasing her gymnastics skills in all four competitions: the vault, balance beam, bars and floor.
Eiswald’s strength are her bars and the vault, Gunnels said when asked about Eiswald’s skills as a gymnast.
“When she is on the bars it looks effortless, she flies. A real natural on the bars,” she said. “Vault is another one for her that Erin is really strong at. She has great body awareness and when she is up in the air she stays tight.”
Only just beginning her high school career in gymnastics at Sehome, state has been the expectation all along from Gunnels.
“I think so,” she said, “looking at her caliber and what she can do. She has all the skills and the work ethic to pull it together by the end of the season.”
Other gymnasts who have shown their will to compete this season have been Bellingham’s Rachel Cornwall and Gibbons. Both have been recovering from injury this season and still qualified to compete in the state championships. Cornwall came back from a sprained ankle and Gibbons a torn ACL.
“For them to come back and make it (to the state championships) on bars is huge. The want to continue because they have a love and will for competing,” Gunnels said. “They’re in there and doing conditioning even though they have a hurt leg and ankle.”
Another freshman, Bellingham’s Maddie Domico, will be competing in the floor event.
“She is quiet and powerful. The one that is hardworking in the gym and has great work ethic. She is always working on something even if she is not being asked to,” Gunnels said. “Finding something and working on it. She is someone to watch and is going to be around for the next three years.”
The other gymnasts who will be competing in the state championships are Sehome’s Cat Fitzpatrick in the vault and Shae Walker in the balance beam. Bellingham’s Sage Stevenson in the bars and Ilona Iff in the balance beam. And Squalicum’s Sienna Takabe in the balance beam.
“It’s a unique opportunity to all go together, travel in a meet together, compete as separate teams and represent a big area of Bellingham,” Gunnels said. “A great opportunity for the girls to go there (the state championships) this year.”