Fifth-year Mount Si head coach Kelly Loranger feels this year’s gymnastics season has unveiled a new experience for everyone involved. There’s a new gym and practice space for the girls to strut their stuff and new high school buildings where the Wildcats hit the books and socialize.
“I feel like they’re a lot more connected this year than in the past,” Loranger said of the squad, which is smaller with 18 girls, but massive on the camaraderie front.
The Wildcats are notching solid team scores as well, including a 163-146 victory over Skyline on Jan. 23 to raise their 4A KingCo record to 4-3 at press time. Mount Si has been registering its top team scores in the mid-160s, and in the individual realm, the Wildcats are shooting to qualify some girls to the state meet on Feb. 20-22 at Sammamish High in Bellevue.
“My goal is every year, even I could have the most talented girl on the team, I still want to be able to train her and teach her one new thing that she’s never done before,” said Loranger, who was an assistant coach for seven years at Issaquah before taking her Mount Si post. Overall, she’s been coaching in the valley for many years, she added.
Top Wildcats are senior captains Lauren Bennetts and Tylor Zwiefelhofer, senior Jillian Bludworth and sophomore Kaitlyn Holt, who competed at the state diving meet in the fall.
Prior to the march-in at Skyline High, Zwiefelhofer said she’s strengthened her floor exercise with three tumbling passes and finds it encouraging to be unleashing giants on her bars routine again.
“I like being able to kind of fly through the air. I think that’s really fun, that’s why I like bars so much, ‘cause I get to launch myself off the 12-foot bar,” she said with a smile.
Zwiefelhofer’s gymnastics journey includes starting on a competitive team in second grade, taking a break in sixth grade and then returning to the sport in high school. She’s always enjoyed tackling the floor, bars, beam and vault, but competing for a club squad was a huge time commitment.
“Being able to do this and still be a part of a sport that I enjoy for only three months out of the year is a lot more do-able with taking college classes and everything,” she said of her present situation.
Bennetts took up gymnastics at age 3 and sat out her eighth-grade year when she fractured her knee. After going to physical therapy for a year, she got back on board with the sport as a freshman in high school.
“It’s really just my love for the sport that brought me back. I never would have quit if I didn’t get injured,” she said.
When it comes to favorite events, Bennetts likes the challenge of the beam, which doesn’t sit high on many gymnasts’ most-loved list, she said.
Bennetts and the Wildcats are focusing on cleaning up their skills over the next few weeks to prepare for the postseason.
“It’s just the little things that really separate good from great,” she said of the improvements, adding that the team is brimming with tons of talent and energy to achieve their goals. “I think that’s really important on a high school team because that’s what really brings everyone together.”
With that said, Bennetts ran off to prepare for the march-in at Skyline.