SVSJ preview: Successful Mount Si High School gymnastics program has new leader at helm, but goals remain the same – to make it to state

EDITOR’S NOTE: Good Friday morning, everyone. It is “Black Friday,” as the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear. Before you head out to purchase your holiday gifts, whether that will be at the North Bend outlet mall, Issaquah, Bellevue or wherever, or make your way into Seattle for today’s Apple Cup football game, and watch Fall City’s Cameron Van Winkle in action for the University of Washington as they take on Washington State University, we have a look today at a new era beginning for Mount Si High School’s gymnastics program, as it welcomes in a new coach. 

A new face is running the show this season for Mount Si High School’s gymnastics program, but she is no stranger to the team or to local youth gymnastics.

Kelly Loranger, a veteran local gymnastics instructor who works at the Mount Si Gymnastics facility in North Bend and was a volunteer assistant last season for the Wildcats, takes over the head coaching duties this season, replacing successful former coach Jessica Easthope. Loranger is excited about what lies ahead. “Lots of good returners, I’m excited about that, and a lot of good freshmen coming in as well,” she said.

Loranger, who has been involved in the sport a long time – first as an athlete helping Issaquah High School win the state 3A title in 2002, and now for the past 12 years as a local youth coach – is very familiar with the team, and that is a big plus, according to senior returner Maggie Kenow. “The majority of the girls on the team have already worked with Kelly before,” Kenow said. “I’ve been working with her since I was in elementary school and so have most of the other girls.” Kenow and fellow seniors Amanda Antoch and Abby Weber will anchor the returning group this year, a group which also has junior Samantha Holmes back this season as well.

A couple of key freshmen to watch will be Sarah Christopherson and Shelby Johnson. Johnson is the younger sister of Hailey Johnson, who was a key piece of the success Mount Si has had the past four years; Hailey graduated back in June.

Leadership will be a big theme for this senior class, and Kenow is ready to provide it. “A lot of the time it’s scary to come in here not knowing how to do things and seeing these girls do crazy flips and it’s intimidating, so part of our job is to just make sure everyone’s comfortable and knows they’re welcome and knows that they’re not out of the club,” she said. Weber concurred. “I think that it’s awesome for people who have never done gymnastics before to come out and try it. It’s been a big part of my life, so I’m glad that other people are able to experience it and because of that, I think that it’s really important to try and include everybody in everything,” she said.

It sounds as if the teams to beat this season will be Woodinville and Newport, but both Kenow and Weber believe that the Knights ultimately hold the key to how far Mount Si can go this season. “Last year we almost beat Newport at districts and there will be two teams going to state this year so if we do beat them (at districts this year) then we will be going to state,” Kenow said. “I think our main team to beat this year is Newport,” Weber added.

While the athletes may be focused on teams to beat, the coaches are more concerned about the future alignment of the league, according to Loranger. It appears that there is some back-channel discussion going on amongst league athletic administrators about a possible realignment of Kingco for next season that could happen regardless of whether Mount Si remains a 4A school or drops back down to 3A for the next classification cycle. This realignment, which we have learned may involve all sports except football, would likely entail a full merge of both the 3A and 4A leagues and a split of the combined group by division as opposed to classification. Such a split could see Mount Si paired with Issaquah, Bellevue and Mercer Island schools once again as it was in the past.

If this materializes, and it’s a big if at this point as it will largely depend on where schools end up in the new classification scenario in the coming weeks and months, something which we will follow for you here at the SVSJ, Loranger is looking forward to it. “I think it’ll be nice,” she said. “They’ll get to compete against girls that they actually know on other teams.”

Kenow looks for fans to watch her compete in the floor exercise event. “I have spent most of my time competing on floor,” she said. “I would say that would be my best event.” The floor has been the bread and butter of Mount Si in recent seasons, and has been by far the most exciting event for fans to watch at the meets. As for Weber, vault will be the event people need to follow her on. “I think vault right now is my strongest event,” Weber said. “We have a couple of people doing ‘tsuks’ so that will be another strong event.” The ‘tsuk’, for those unaware, is a skill on the vault routine which carries a higher degree of difficulty, therefore start scoring values on those routines will be higher. Easthope, as we have noted here in past years, made high start values on individual routines a point of emphasis for athletes in her coaching style. Loranger will be no different.

“I think start values is a huge thing,” she said, adding bars will be an area she will be focusing on with this in mind. “I think the hardest event is the bars and we’re definitely playing with new skills and trying to get everyone capable of getting that 10.0 start value,” Loranger said.

Weber believes the team can go far this season. “I think that we can make it to state,” she said. “I think we can beat Newport and get the second place in districts and be able to make it to state as a team.”

The season opens up next Thursday with a neutral-site meet against Bothell at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. Mount Si’s home meets are all in January, starting on the 7th with, based on how the athletes feel, the potential big meet of the season against Newport. Senior Night will be on January 28 against Issaquah. Meets begin at 7:00pm.

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.
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