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Mead returns five starters from state champion gymnastics team

A first was accomplished by a Greater Spokane League gymnastics team last year when Mead brought home a State 4A championship.

The biggest factor in the Panthers’ journey to a state title was depth, not individual talent.

“You’ve got to have the magical combination to win a state title,” Mead coach Laurie Chadwick said. “Last year was a once-in-a-lifetime team. You have to have desire and the group to pull it off.”

Only one Panther made a final – again highlighting the reason Mead prevailed.

“We don’t have the same depth this year,” Chadwick said.

Three of Mead’s nine state participants graduated, leaving big holes to fill, Chadwick said. Only five of the six returners will compete. Sophomore Hanna Bjerkestrand is out for the season with stress fractures.

So Chadwick will look to versatile senior Cadie Pratt along with seniors Courtney Butler, Kodee Kinder and Josie Nesbitt and junior Allyson Burkhardt.

Chadwick will also call upon some untested sophomores and a freshman to fill the voids from graduation.

The league title, as has been the case recently, will come down to a tug of war between Mead and University.

“It’s going to be tight this year,” Chadwick said. “We’ll see which team has the depth to pull through.”

U-Hi coach Tracy Duncan will look to four seniors and two sophomores who have state experience. The Titans won the 3A regional title last year.

Seniors Taylor Rydeen, Katelyn Nemitz, Jessica Vent-Gmeiner and Morah Knowles will team with sophomores Taylor Bowles and Shantel Singh.

Duncan wasn’t as optimistic in preseason, but her team has changed her mind.

“The way these girls are improving in just the last two weeks is phenomenal,” Duncan said. “They’re really stepping up. None of them were all-around athletes last year. They’re learning all four (events) this year.”

Duncan still tabs Mead as the league favorite.

“Laurie still has a good team,” Duncan said. “She’s an excellent coach.”