Gymnastics turns to youth in KingCo title hunt

Mercer Island High School gymnastics saw an era come to an end last season with the graduation of Laura Maruhashi and Olivia Harvey. The two athletes helped to push the Islanders to heights unseen in the program’s history.

This year, Mercer Island will have to depend on a lot of young talent to build toward the future.

“I have taken a lot of what the seniors last year taught me and grown into a better gymnast,” said senior Erika Reutimann. “We have a lot of freshman talent this year, so I know it is my job to help them feel comfortable and improve.”

The Islanders had one of their biggest turnouts ever this year with 65 girls, 16 of whom are freshmen.

“We normally average about 30 girls,” said Mercer Island coach Lenny Lewis. “They are all looking forward to the season, but we need another coach.”

The girls are divided into four groups: the top tier, second tier, dancers and the girls with very little experience.

One Islander in the top tier is Vanessa Gafney. The sophomore will have to take on a leadership role as a second-year gymnast returning with the highest scores.

“[On the high school squad] it is a lot about the team and having fun,” said Gafney. “It is not as much about individual scores as it is in club.”

Gafney grew throughout her freshman year but lacked consistency.

“She was totally inconsistent last year but had some great moments,” said Lewis. “She would have been our No. 1 gymnast this year, but she has some girls to push her.”

One of those girls, Kristin Trumble, is a former teammate of Gafney’s on a local club team. During club season, Trumble was a level 8 gymnast with Gymnastics East.

“There are not enough good things I can say about her,” said Lewis. “She’s gonna give Vanessa a run for the No. 1 spot and give us a great one-two punch.”

Along with Trumble, the Islanders add a group that could come together in the next few years to rival the Maruhashi-Harvey era.

“I remember how uncomfortable I was last year, and I want to help the freshman feel comfortable on the team,” said Gafney.

The Islander captains will include Reutimann, Kendra Johnson, Kara Lungmus and Melissa Seda. Johnson has had a tough high school career, battling injuries all three years that she has been on the team. Unfortunately, this year is no different.

“She has had to battle some things,” said Lewis. “But we want to get her in before the KingCo meet.”

One big plus for the Islanders has been the change in the league. Lewis not losing sleep over Issaquah and Newport moving to the 4A level.

“I couldn’t be more happy,” said Lewis, laughing. “They are perennial state contenders.”

The make-up of league meets will be different this year without one-on-one meets. All meets will include multiple teams from different classification.

The Islanders’ stiffest challenge in 3A KingCo may come from Mount Si.

“I know their coach, and she has let me know they are going to beat us,” said Lewis. “We’ll see about that.”

No matter what the Wildcats bring to the table, Lewis knows that he cannot take any team lightly.

“There will be a surprise this year,” said Lewis. “This is gymnastics.”

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