Mercer Island gymnastics will have a new head coach this season for the first time since 1989.
Olivia Harvey will take over for former head coach Lenny Lewis, who retired after 30 years of leading the team at the end of last season. Even though Harvey is new to the head-coaching position, the former Mercer Island gymnastics captain is very familiar with the program. Harvey has spent the last nine years as an assistant coach with the Islanders.
“I thought it was a great opportunity,” Harvey said. “I’ve been with Mercer Island for long enough that I know all the workings and it seemed like a perfect transitioning moment with Lenny retiring.”
Practice got underway for the Islanders on Nov. 11, with a focus on conditioning.
“We get all the girls in there and we start conditioning them like crazy to get them into shape to do all the skills that we’re going to need to (have),” Harvey said. “That’s really all we’ve been doing the last few days.”
While some of the girls have been training at gymnastics clubs during the high school offseason, Harvey said a lot of the girls are coming into practice with varying levels of gymnastics experience.
“We do have a few girls that will transfer from club into our high school program, but in most cases, the girls have not done gymnastics for many years, if at all,” Harvey said. “So we have quite a lot of new faces that haven’t done it before and a few that do come in from club.”
With a younger team this year, there is a big focus on safety early in the season. Harvey said that all the new athletes have to learn how to do the skills correctly.
“It really creates a nice environment to have them all bond together when we have a whole bunch of new girls coming in,” Harvey said. “They can all work through skills together.”
Once meet season begins, Harvey said they expect their returners to put up some good scores, but there are also some new gymnasts who are coming over from club teams. While it’s early, Harvey thinks the team will be strong on the floor exercise this year based off of what she’s seen in practice.
“A lot of these new girls that have come in have been showing us some pretty good skills even straight off the bat,” Harvey said. “I think that floor is definitely going to be a pretty good event for us again.”
With less than three weeks before the first meet of the season, Harvey said they hope to see the gymnasts work hard in practice. “Gymnastics isn’t easy, but if you put the hours and dedication into it, you can do a lot,” Harvey said. “We’re just going to get them on the equipment and just start working the basics and pushing through to our harder skills.”
The first meet of the season will be against Redmond on Dec. 5 at home. Harvey said they are looking forward to the meets at Mercer Island High School so they can compete in front of their fans. Harvey said one of the goals this season is to increase the number of fans attending the meets to cheer on the gymnasts.
“These girls put in a lot of work and a lot of time,” Harvey said. “It’s good to have that backup support in the crowd cheering you on.”