It was a peculiar sight last season at the Exhibition Center inside the Tacoma Dome.
It was a tight competition for the Class 4A state championship between eventual champion Woodinville (187.375), Newport (second, 173.225), Mount Rainier (third, 169.4) and Olympia (fourth, 168.825) as all four teams put on their strong performances in an attempt to capture last year’s 4A title.
The only program missing from that group was one of the top in the area since 2013, when it won the 4A state championship: Emerald Ridge High.
“Right now I believe we are right there where we were with the team that won state,” Emerald Ridge coach Bobbi Jones said. “We’re one of only three teams that have scored a 170 (points) during a meet. (The girls) feel confident about their routines, and they’re having fun while they’re out there.”
I feel like the team is getting stronger. Every year I feel like it gets a little bit stronger.
It was a strange sight to see as only a handful of Jaguars sprinkled around the Exhibition Hall as they competed in individual events last year.
“I feel like the team is getting stronger. Every year I feel like it gets a little bit stronger,” said Kelly Richardson, who took eighth place in the uneven bars last season. “Either (it’s from) more girls coming to the team, or a girl has a higher levels of skills — it’s awesome.”
With seven seniors on the roster, combined with the injection of freshmen twins Hannah and Bailey Miller, Emerald Ridge looks to be back to its normal self as the Jaguars are only one of three teams to score at least a 170 points at a meet this season — the threshold that defines a state-title contending team.
“We really haven’t changed too much, and even last year we were the same team,” Jones said. “We always expect to reach state, because we built a culture here that pushes the girls to make those goals. Those aren’t our goals — those are the girls making the goals to reach state.”
Nothing’s changed with how we work here. We’re still a team that cares for each other and works hard when we’re here. Every year, we believe we can be right there at the top of state.
The Jaguars are joined by both Woodinville and Bothell as the only gymnastics teams to score at least a 170 in a meet this season.
Emerald Ridge has the depth to make a run at the program’s first team championship since 2013, the last team to win 4A state title before Woodinville (2014-2016) went on its three-year run of dominance.
“Nothing’s changed with how we work here. We’re still a team that cares for each other and works hard when we’re here,” Brinlyn Herbert said. “Every year, we believe we can be right there at the top of state.”
Emerald Ridge’s roster looks deep with Richardson, Herbert, Jessica Rice, Alex Shook, Miranda Williams and Olivia Williams — not to mention both Miller sisters. There’s plenty of options for Jones to choose from when she assembles her squad over the next week. It’s just about which girls can put ER on top of the state.
“I was excited coming in because they have so many talented girls. I was happy to be on a winning team,” Bailey Miller said.
“Last year they were a good team, and with us, I feel like we can make them better,” Hannah Miller added.
It’s the confidence and no-fear attitude that Jones instills in her team, one these freshmen have embodied over a demanding first year.
But that’s what life is like for Emerald Ridge gymnastics. It’s a standard that they’ve created, one where the Jaguars believe they’re the top talent in state.
I think that when you create a culture like we have, and after winning a state title before, the expectations have risen.
Emerald Ridge coach Bobbi Jones
For Emerald Ridge, this year was just a return to the norm.
“I think that when you create a culture like we have, and after winning a state title before, the expectations have risen,” Jones said. “We will hold them to their goals over the season, but what we expect here comes from what they expect from themselves first.”