Highline team captures state gymnastics berth

As the Highline High School girls gymnastics team huddled on the mats listening to the announcer listing the final team standings, it was confident it had done its best no matter what the results might display.

Going into the final rotation, the Pirates trailed Port Angeles by a slim margin and held a slight advantage in the scoring over North Kitsap.

After sticking a solid beam performance, they felt good about their efforts, but knew it would be close for the third and final team allocation to the state gymnastics meet to be held on Feb. 15-16 at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.

"It's the best night we've ever had," commented assistant coach Kevin Tessandore at the time. "It's really going to be close for the third spot."

The team standings report continued as a nerve-wracked Highline squad wondered if its hard work and effort would finally send the team to state for the first time.

When North Kitsap was announced as the fourth place team, the pent up emotions began to flow and were in full bloom as the official announcement of Highline as the No. 3 team to state was given. Highline scored 158.3 to the 157.85 of North Kitsap. Favored Enumclaw rolled to the Class 2A/3A West Central District championship with 179.425 points to outdistance an outstanding Decatur second place effort of 168.65.
Tears, hugs and gestures of joy showcased the bond the Pirates had for each other.

Dawn Tessandore's teardrops of happiness mirrored the emotions of the Pirates going to state in her final season as head coach.

"It's been a fun ride, whatever happened," she said after a chance to collect herself. "I'm so proud of this team. They're a family and love each other. Their hard work has paid off."

For a gymnast that has been less noticed than the high scoring leaders of the team, Tessandore had great praise for this night.

"Laurissa Englehardt has been trying to score in the 30's during her four years here," said Tessandore. "Tonight she finally did it (30.125). Kristen and Kerrie have been great, but tonight, Laurissa is my hero."

Balance beam scores were the big deciders for Highline. It had 40.05 to North Kitsap's 37.475 and Port Angeles' 37.5 posting.

Kristen Rodal outdistanced the field in the all-around competition with a whopping 38.2 score that was highlighted by a winning trio of events. The Highline star flew to a super-sized 9.75 score on the vault and stuck the balance beam at 9.525. Rodal capped her championship winning events by bounding to 9.775 on the floor exercise. For good measure, she posted a second place 9.15 on the uneven parallel bars behind the first place 9.2 of Olivia Bannerot (Enumclaw).

"I'm very excited to be going as a team," she said. "On the individual events, I just wanted to do my best. I knew I had the mind set and strength."

A 36.0 total in a third place all-aound performance by Mia Alvarez highlighted another Pirate achievement. Alvarez keyed her efforts with a third place 9.625 on floor and a fifth place 8.35 on bars. Alvarez also had a sixth place 9.125 on beam.

"Everyone worked so hard for this and I thought everyone had high hopes," said Andrea Mandt. "I feel blessed."

Another Highline School District athlete made the state field in an individual event. Danielle Carnahan of Kennedy Catholic was an additional qualifier with a floor performance of 8.5.

Decatur of Federal Way continued its fine season by virtue of a second place finish.

"We're very happy (about going to state )," said Gator head coach Patty Braun. "It's been a long time (1995). We have five strong all-arounders and only two seniors (Victoria Braun and Taylor Meadows). The gymnasts are consistent and have good form."

Highlighting the good form category for Decatur athletes were Anna Paradee and Allison Sherwin

Paradee paraded to a seventh place all-around score of 35.025 on the strength of two third place finishes. The Gator gymnast scored 9.425 on the vault and 9.25 on the balance beam.

For the eighth place all-arounder Sherwin, a sixth place 8.125 on bars aided her 34.825 score. Karissa Kolman (33.25, 12th place) and Victoria Braun (33.05 12th) placed well in the all-around action.

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