They’re not exactly the faces you would expect to see at a high school gymnastics competition.
But peeking out from under the warm up-jackets Mead High School’s gymnasts wear are hand-painted T-shirts featuring the likenesses of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Mickey Mouse and, quite appropriately, Tigger, the tiger who never stops bouncing.
Like the Disney characters they represent, the squad from Spokane is chasing a dream: the Class 4A state title.
On Saturday, they moved a step closer by winning the West Central District/Greater Spokane League championship at Mount Rainier High School.
Mead tallied 170.025 points, ahead of second- place finisher Puyallup (169.85), which will also compete as a team at next weekend’s state meet.
Leading the way for the Panthers was junior Jenna Schlosser, who scored 37.575 points to capture the all-around title. The former Level 9 club gymnast won the floor exercise (9.65), bars (9.275) and beam (9.4) in her first year competing for Mead.
“I liked my beam, and I got a good score, so I was in a good mood,” said Schlosser, the team’s “Goofy.” “So then I was like, OK, let’s rock floor’ … and then I rocked bars, so I was happy.”
Schlosser said she was taken aback by the caliber of talent on the west side of the mountains. The two districts merged their meet in 2013.
“It gave me more motivation to try as hard as I could,” she said.
Mead coach Laurie Chadwick said the high-energy Goofy is an apt characterization for Schlosser, whom she describes as “a show-person.”
“She’s a great addition to the team,” she said. “She has such a fun spirit.”
Chadwick said her team has struggled with injuries, but pulled together when it counted. After winning its first state title in 2012, Mead narrowly missed qualifying as a team last year.
“They worked hard at being really clean and did what they’re able to do as a team,” she said.
Puyallup sophomore Kate Jacobsen finished second in the all-around with 36.575 points in her first year of high school gymnastics. Her teammate Summer Barrett won the vault (9.45).
“I’m just ecstatic,” Jacobsen said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates behind me.”
Defending state champion Emerald Ridge narrowly missed qualifying as a team with 168 points, but coach Bobbi Jones said she was still pleased with her team’s third-place showing. The Jaguars qualified five individual gymnasts.
“We’ve had some great things happen this season so we’re not disappointed,” Jones said. “We have one senior, so we’ll be back next year just as strong as we are now.”
Competing as all-around entrants will be Kentlake senior Ashley Pernell, Central Valley sophomore McKinzie Carter of Central Valley and Mount Rainier junior Ava Welch.
Host Lindbergh surprised South Puget Sound League champion Steilacoom by capturing the team title in the Class 2A West Central District III boys championships.
The Sentinels were thought to be the favorite, but the Eagles finished first with a score of 268. Steilacoom was second with 232.
Lindbergh had seven top-three finishes in 12 events. Steilacoom improved its state-qualifying times in the 200-yard medley and 400 freestyle relays behind Andrew Lamb, Andrew Gonzalez, James Scott and Ben Scott.
The Sentinels finished in 3 minutes, 22.45 seconds in the 400 free relay, down from their previous best of 3:27.
“Before going in, I told them I wanted a 3:22 in the 400 (free relay), and by golly they did it,” said Sentinels coach Kathy Casey.
That’s good news for Steilacoom, which looks forward to next week’s state championships in Federal Way.
“We’ll get a (team) trophy, and we expect Lindbergh to be there too,” Casey said. “Our swimmers expect to win (their events) too.”