SVSJ preview: Mount Si gymnastics continues to look strong, but tough competition awaits

EDITOR’S NOTE: We continue our series of team previews today with our first look at a Mount Si High School team – gymnastics. We will have wrestling and both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams to round out the week for you here.

Mount Si’s gymnastics program had its best finish in school history last season, taking third at the 3A state meet. While many of the top athletes from last season’s team return, the Wildcats could be in for a more challenging season this winter.

Back as coach for her seventh season is Jessica Easthope. Easthope, a counselor at Mount Si, looks forward to the season ahead. “We lost a lot of seniors, so I think there is some expectation that we might not be as strong, but I think people should be cautious of that statement,” Easthope said. “The kids are excited. We’re going to be good.”

Among the top returners are seniors Carissa Castagno and Mackenzie Brown. Castagno is excited about getting things started. “I think we’re going to do really good,” she said. Look for both athletes to compete in the all-around, but Castagno’s event of choice is the floor, where she routinely posted scores of 9.0 or better last season. Among the top newcomers is a freshman who should already have a good grasp of what to expect – Samantha Holmes, the younger sister of Elizabeth, among the graduated seniors from last season. Easthope likes what she sees from Holmes. “It looks like she’s been in the gym working hard,” Easthope said.

Other retuners to watch include Jenn Rogers and Hailey Johnson, both juniors. Look for Rogers to be the anchor in the Mount Si rotation in events, as her scores usually are among the best in all-around competition.

Another newcomer to watch is sophomore Samantha Brimberry. Easthope expects Brimberry will be an asset to the program. “She comes to us with a little bit of knowledge and a skill set that we can definitely build from,” the coach said.

Not only has there been a bit of change on the roster, there’s also winds of change in what fans will see this season, particularly in one event. There has been a rule change for the bars event this season, and Easthope expects it to be good news for the Wildcats. The change involves the number of times gymnasts have to move between the lower and higher bar in their routine, commonly known as a “pass” between the two. Previous rules required two of those; now, only one will be required. Brown hopes it helps her score on that event. “That will give me a higher start value and hopefully a better score, so that’ll be good,” she said. “Bars is about strength and it’s about endurance, and it’s surprising that one of those passes on bars could tire a kid out, but it can tremendously,” Easthope said.

The change could mean higher “start values” for Mount Si gymnasts on the event, which could be an overall help to the Wildcats’ team score with higher individual finishing scores. The key to Mount Si’s success in recent seasons has been making routines difficult enough to earn high start values, in order to get the 9.0 or better scores on events which aid the Wildcats to team scores in the 160’s, or in a couple cases last season, the low 170’s.

One issue for the program this fall has been reduced turnout – only 19 kids came out this season to compete. But don’t be fooled – it’s actually a blessing in disguise. Mount Si’s coaching staff was reduced by one, from three down to two, in the offseason with the resignation of longtime assistant Jennifer Batton so she could move to Texas. Batton’s position was not filled, leaving Easthope with one assistant – Megan Marino, who is back for her fourth season as a member of the coaching staff. “To be honest, in this high risk sport, a small number isn’t a bad thing. I get to devote more time to the kids,” the coach said.

Easthope thinks that Sammamish, Mercer Island and Lake Washington could all be teams to watch within Kingco, based on how last season finished. But, she cautioned, “Every new season brings new gymnasts so who knows what the other schools have.”

Mount Si only has two home meets this season – the first of those is next Thursday. They also are hosting the SeaKing District meet in February for the first time at Mount Si.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
This entry was posted in Previews, Wrestling/Gymnastics. Bookmark the permalink.