Gymnasts take KingCo

By Matt Phelps

The Mercer Island gymnastics team is the 3A KingCo champion for the first time in 20 years.

The Islanders won the title behind junior Kelsey Ingram's individual all-around championship and handed three-time defending state champion Issaquah High School its first loss in four years.

``They called us KingCo champions!'' said an ecstatic Mercer Island gymnastics head coach Lenny Lewis. ``And we still haven't had a solid meet.''

The Islanders won with a score of 168.725, while Issaquah scored 164.675. Bellevue took third with 159.9. Mercer Island has yet to score over 170, a goal that Lewis has maintained the team can reach.

``It feels pretty special to be KingCo champs,'' said Ingram. ``I am more happy for the team than anything.''

The best performances of the night came as Ingram took to beam and floor exercise.

Her last routine was the final performance of the night. The entire crowd, focusing on the floor exercise, never took their eyes off Ingram. The junior did not disappoint, hitting the routine she had perfected all year. The entire crowd of spectators let her know how well she performed with a standing ovation as she hugged her jubilant teammates.

The judges let her know how well she did with the best score of the night, a 9.5.

On beam, the junior had one of her best performances of the year. Ingram, wobbling on just two of her moves, stuck the dismount to earn first place and post a score of 9.375.

The entire Mercer Island team was strong on beam, as Mimi Maritz tied for third place (8.85), Olivia Harvey took sixth place (8.7), Ashley Wedlake finished seventh (8.75) and Kristen Shibuya took eighth (8.6).

``I wasn't expecting to place that high, but they kept going and going,'' said Maritz, about the final standings call. ``When they finally called my name, it was just an amazing feeling.''

The most improbable part of Ingram's all-around title was that she won it despite falling on bars for the first time all year.

``She was trying a new stunt that she had hit twice in the practice room, so we thought she would hit it easily,'' said Lewis. ``It was a bit scary.

``Without the fall, she would have been in the nines,'' Lewis said. ``She would have really blown the field away.''

The slip cost Ingram, but she still took fifth in the competition with a score of 8.375. Islander freshman Olivia Harvey came through for the team, making up for the fall with a second-place finish during the event, scoring an 8.75. Mercer Island senior Ashley Wedlake took fourth on bars with an 8.5.

Wedlake and Ingram tied on the vault for first place overall, with scores of 9.15.

``It is great to share this with a teammate,'' said Wedlake, who finished fourth in all-around (35.3). ``I can't even tell you how happy I am right now.''

Wedlake finished fifth on floor (9.0), and Harvey took ninth (8.6) to round out the Islanders' top 10 placings.

Harvey finished seventh in all-around (34.1).

Issaquah competed without its top gymnast, but the Islanders four-point win was a dramatic display of dominance over a team they lost to at the beginning of the year by just six-tenths of a point.

The top three teams, Mercer Island, Issaquah and Bellevue, advance to districts at Sammamish High School on Saturday. Only the top two teams will continue on to state.

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