These days, I am finding it difficult to contain my optimism for this year’s team. With three solid years of recruited gymnasts, our team is as strong as it ever has been. We are a team that contends and is making the step to the next level of collegiate competition. Last year, our goal was the respect that comes when your team can score 400. We accomplished that or greater two times last season, a 20-25 point improvement over the previous year. This season, we set our sights on the score of 420 where several teams that have been beyond our reach forever lie and cannot hear us coming. It is going to take a tremendous amount of work and a little bit of luck to accomplish our goal, yet I strongly believe it will happen.
This year’s freshman class of five good gymnasts gives the team competition and depth that will make everyone better. Garrett Dee, 2015 Region 2 All-Around champion from Idaho, joined the team and immediately gave his strong work ethic to the cause. Garrett has tremendous drive in addition to being a dedicated teammate. He performs with attention to the details of form and landings. As he acquires skills, it is going to be tough to outcompete this guy.
The state of Oregon and Oregon Gymnastics Academy in Beaverton brings us Ben Fisher, a talented and late-blooming gymnast. Ben was coached by Leonard Spivey (UW alum circa 1982) when he was younger. Ben has tremendous potential and as his strength gains, his gymnastics will be something to see. Ben remembers corrections and translates those words into body coordination with a unique ease. As the season develops, I can see Ben becoming more and more of a factor in our team’s rise.
Two international gymnasts joined the team this year after making contact with us over the Internet. Phil Chantler from Manchester, England and Michael Sibley from Vancouver, Canada bring their skills to this year’s team. Phil probably does his most difficult skills on pommel horse but is also a good tumbler. Although he may not think so, he has a lot of potential on vault, parallel bars, and high bar. He has uprooted himself from his home halfway around the world to be here and “give it a go.” Very impressive, and I am looking forward to him making lineup and helping the team.
Michael Sibley was recently named Canada’s 2015 Junior Athlete of the Year! Though he comes to us with a leg injury from his junior days, we are hoping his recent medical fix will heal 100% and give him back to the sport full of the power he possesses. Michael will make his presence felt on the team this season, most likely on rings.
Last season at a competition we attended in Ft. Worth, Texas, we met Jacob Jarrett who was competing as an individual in our rotation. Jacob impressed us with his explosiveness and upper body quickness on several events. Team members and I invited him to join the team. He took us up on that offer and left his home in Louisiana to come to school up here. Jacob was taught good basics by his coaches and is a very polite and respectful person. As his strength increases, his future gets brighter.
For those that have been on the team for two or three years, firsthand experience of the team’s improvement has provided a much-needed understanding of how the year progresses. Their fitness is greater than the newcomers and gives the team a solid base upon which to improve. This year’s sophomores Nick Kano, Nathan Tsuji, and Carl Meader were vital to the team’s success last year and are equally as important this year. Nick is becoming a world-class gymnast on rings while steadily improving on parallel bars, pommel horse, and high bar. Nathan has upgraded nearly all of his dismounts as well as shown his teammates how to perform with minimal execution errors. Carl keeps acquiring new skills, incorporating them into routines seamlessly and with a flair for the original. These three California boys are helping the team in numerous ways that will show up directly with improved event scores.
Third-year team members Max Soifer, Aaron Moss, and Justin Rowen comprise three quarters of the veterans on our team. These three have proven their value to the team with their consistent gymnastics and their help in recruiting. They are providing leadership in the gym and out at our fundraising events. Each is having to overcome an injury at this time but I am confident that by the competition season’s beginning, they will be ready to compete and provide some of the highest-scoring routines for the team.
The only fourth-year team member this season is Brandon Waller, who is healthy after missing last season with the second knee injury of his career. Brandon is not fazed by this second setback and is improving, or I should say picking up where he left off before he got hurt on a rapid ascent to high-level skills and routines. His positive nature and quick-witted puns are great ingredients for a well-balanced, fun team. I, personally, am very impressed with his development gymnastically and as a team leader. This guy has gotten all that our program offers and is ready, once this season concludes, to take it out into the “Real World.” Watch out, world!
I believe we are poised to accomplish new heights of gymnastics this season. I am feeling the joy of an improving program and looking forward to reporting back to you of our accomplishments this coming year. All could not be possible without your help and we truly are grateful for your support. We have all had a hand in building the team to this level, and watching it perform gives me the satisfaction of knowing we are on the right path. Hopefully you will also get an opportunity to see the team in action this coming season. I highly recommend it either at one of our away meets, or for our dual meet in Portland this year in February against our biggest rival, Arizona State.
– Coach Mark Russo
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