Sister to sister: Mount Si gymnastics squad gets competitive with mentor approach

Carissa Castagno and Mackenzie Brown are Mount Si
Carissa Castagno and Mackenzie Brown are Mount Si's returning veteran seniors for gymnastics.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Before junior Hailey Johnson races down the runway for a high-flying vault, she walks herself through every movement.

“I think about every part of it, everything that I have to focus on,” she said. “There isn’t time to think about it when you’re going. You just have to do it.” It’s only when she’s back on solid ground that she knows whether it was good. A perfect landing “is the best feeling” and an awesome moment, Mount Si’s vault specialist said.

Johnson and the other state-experienced Mount Si returners will be helping a new, younger crop of teammates discover that awesome feeling. Besides a solid group of seven or so returners and gymnastic veterans, the Wildcat team sees a lot of total newcomers and other girls who haven’t done gym for years. High school gymnastics will be a new experience for many, so coach Jessica Easthope is using a “big sister, little sister” focus to share knowledge and build skill.

“I’m looking to my older group for that social, emotional confidence building for my new ones,” Easthope said. “That’s going to be a crucial component.”

Older girls will pair up with younger athletes, teaching and learning.

One Wildcat tradition that will continue is how this group cheers and motivates each other. All season long, there are friendships growing here.

“It’s easy, because we’re all friends,” said senor Carissa Castagno.

“It’s fun to encourage each other to do our best,” said fellow senior Mackenzie Brown. “We all want to win. That makes it easy.”

She and Castagno have done this sport their whole lives. It’s something they’re good at. It’s thrilling. And, when they’re out there on the floor, “everyone is watching you,” Brown said. “It’s your moment to do good for yourself. And there’s always next time, too.”

Brown’s strong on bars, while Castagno’s strong suit is floor.

“Everyone is looking to be good,” said junior returner Jen Rogers, who’ll likely be Mount Si’s best all-around gymnast. “I want to develop a team. I want to make it so they’re comfortable competing, so everyone can contribute, and it’ll be fun.”

When she was a freshman, she was practically a little sister to her mentors, Sabrina Frost and Jess Trotto.

“I’m excited to be that to the new girls,” Rogers said.

• You can follow Mount Si gymnastics at

Mount Si gymnastics upcoming match schedule

Thursday, Dec. 12

• Mount Si at Bellevue, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 19

• Mount Si at Lakewood, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 9

• Mount Si hosts Juanita, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 16

• Mount Si hosts Sammamish, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 23

• Mount Si at Liberty, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 30

• Mount Si at Mercer Island, 7 p.m.


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