Measuring stick for MI

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Islander Kristen Shibuya performs her beam routine at Issaquah High School Thursday. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Islander Kristen Shibuya performs her beam routine at Issaquah High School Thursday.
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For most gymnastic teams in 3A KingCo the league schedule doesn’t really start until they face perennial powerhouse Issaquah. Both Mercer Island and Sammamish visited the team that has won the state title three of the past five years on Thursday, and both used the meet to measure where they stand.

“It is always a huge achievement if you can get past Issaquah,” said Mercer Island head coach Lenny Lewis. “I am excited about this team and how much we have improved.”

The Islanders, who won the league title for the first time last year but lost their best gymnast to graduation, gave Issaquah a run for its money during the meet, as they placed second with a season-high team score of 159.95. Issaquah also finished with a season-high 169.65 team points, while Sammamish was a distant third with 135.8 points.

Leading the way for Mercer Island was junior Laura Maruhashi, who finished the meet with an all-around score of 35.5. The score was good enough for second place overall just behind Kara Chin of Issaquah, who won the all-around point total by just .05. Teammate junior Olivia Harvey completed the one-two punch for Mercer Island by placing third overall in the all-around category with 34.2 points. The most stunning of all the results was the fact that Maruhashi and Harvey placed so high in the all-around but did not finish in the top five during the floor exercise.

“I just want them to be the best that they can and have fun,” said Lewis. “It helps that this is not the first meet of the season. But it really shows us where we need to improve.”

During the past three years, Mercer Island has faced Issaquah in December, making a fast start imperative to having a shot at the regular season league title.

“We know what to work on and that is invaluable,” said Lewis.

Maruhashi’s beam performance was the event of the night for the Islanders as she scored a meet-high 9.1. Harvey followed with a solid performance of her own, scoring a 9.0. Neither gymnast had as much as a wobble during their routines.

The Islanders scored big as a team on beam, even without injured senior Lauren Govier.

“My back is slowly getting better but for now I am just cheering them on,” said Govier. “We have a lot of committed girls and the younger girls are stepping up and taking on new roles really well.”

Maruhashi placed second overall on bars and finished her routine with a new dismount, which she stuck, for a score of 8.8. Harvey tied for third overall with Lauren Hurley of Issaquah during the event as she scored 8.5.

With the loss to Issaquah, Mercer Island will need some help and win the rest of their in-league meets to have a chance to defend their regular-season championship. But all the Islanders know that its what you do in the post season that is most important.

“If we work hard we can put ourselves in a good spot,” said Harvey. “It is really encouraging because we all have improved so much in such a shot time this season. But we have fun and we don’t get stressed out.”

The Islanders will have hectic schedule during the next week. Mercer Island travels to Liberty High School to take on the Patriots tomorrow at 6 p.m. Then on Friday they will travel to Bainbridge Island for a big non-league meet against the Spartans at 7 p.m.

Monday they will host Liberty and Mount Si. The makeup meet was originally scheduled for December 14, but was canceled due to weather concerns. Mercer Island will finish off the stretch by hosting both Bellevue and Skyline Jan. 18.

“We had so much time to improve (during December),” said Lewis. “Now we will see what we can do.”

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