Gymnastics places second at Districts and Third at State

Led by a trio of co-captains, the team continues to see success after their undefeated regular season

Lilly Clarke strikes a pose, ending her routine with a score of 09.40 out of 10.00 and earning the sixth place floor spot at Districts.

Emma Steinburg

Lilly Clarke strikes a pose, ending her routine with a score of 09.40 out of 10.00 and earning the sixth place floor spot at Districts.

Zoe Isett, Copy Editor

Gymnastics ended their season with the title of Metro League Champions and took third place at the State Championships.

The district meet was held in the Ballard gym on Feb. 20, with twenty schools in attendance. Those who performed well at districts progressed to State.

Coach Stephanie Gundle explained some of the extensive planning that goes into hosting the Sea-King District meet.

“The weeks leading up to it involved constant communication with other schools, the judges, our volunteers and our team families,” Gundle said in an email interview.

Multiple gymnasts, including senior co-captain Audrey Lepper, felt that competing at home gave the team an edge during the meet. 

“It was really comforting to be at Ballard. I got to invite my family and friends so we had a lot more supporters than usual,” Lepper said.

Lepper also noted that using Ballard equipment for Districts eased nerves.

“We got to use the bars that we had practiced on all year,” Lepper said. “Knowing how our equipment felt was great because we could use that to our advantage.”

Gundle explained that placing second at Districts and moving on to state was somewhat unexpected for the team.

“We were aiming for the third [and final] qualifying spot, but ended up exceeding expectations and placing second, which was a huge accomplishment,” Gundle said. “It felt good to solidly qualify to state instead of being right on the edge.”

Junior Taylor Whetsel recalled the moment when the state qualifiers were announced.

“We were elated. A couple of the seniors were crying. It was a really big deal because we beat [Lake Washington High School], and they had been one of the top teams,” Whetsel said.

Senior co-captain Lilly Clarke, who placed third all-around at Districts and third in beam and floor at State, felt similarly. 

“Hearing we had gotten second and achieved our season high score was just amazing,” Clarke said. “We were all so excited to move on to State.”

In addition to her accomplishments at the district and state meets, Clarke was recently recognized for her contributions to the team and named a WIAA Athlete of the Week for the week of March 4. 

Much of the team’s success can be accredited to their consistent hard work. Gundle praised the gymnasts’ positive attitudes throughout the season despite uncertainty surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This team has made so much progress since we started in November. They’ve learned so many new skills and improved those they already had,” Gundle said. “They’ve created a great team bond where they know they all contribute and can count on each other.”

Sophomore Linden Fatland, who had previously competed on the Holy Names Academy team before transferring to Ballard, echoed this opinion. 

“[The team] was super inclusive and very welcoming towards new gymnasts,” Fatland said. “It felt like everyone had a place on the team.”

One key focus for the team was setting specific intentions for each practice or meet. The senior co-captains, Clarke, Lepper and Tatum Hadley encouraged the gymnasts to set goals every day. 

“As a team, one of our goals was to make sure we kept up the positive energy and stayed cheerful,” Clarke said. 

Lepper emphasized the team’s strong work ethic, explaining that each gymnast pushed themselves to do their absolute best. 

“Everything we did had purpose,” Lepper said. “Even if it was just practice, I was going to pretend like I was competing. I was going to go full out and do my best.”

Striving to achieve their best, coupled with the supportive team environment, seems to make this team special.

“I had never competed with Ballard before [this season], and it was so exciting,” Fatland said. “I loved it.”