Gymnastics: KingCo 4A is conference of champions

It’s getting a little bit crowded in the KingCo 4A conference where gymnastics is concerned. That’s because a league re-alignment before the school year has shifted the landscape of power. It’s a move that will intensify old rivalries and begin new ones, a move that likely will leave state-level gymnasts on the outside looking in when the state meet takes place.

It’s getting a little bit crowded in the KingCo 4A conference where gymnastics is concerned.

That’s because a league re-alignment before the school year has shifted the landscape of power. It’s a move that will intensify old rivalries and begin new ones, a move that likely will leave state-level gymnasts on the outside looking in when the state meet takes place.

“I think that’s going to be the case,” said Farrah Griffin, the fourth-year coach of the Newport Knights, who along with Issaquah and Skyline, moved from KingCo 3A to 4A. “I certainly think that when you look at the athletes, there will be quite a few people left out.”

Welcome to the new KingCo 4A, the conference of champions. Woodinville has won the last two 4A state titles, with Bothell winning in 2006. Newport is in the midst of a three-year 3A state title streak, and has won nine state titles since 1994. Redmond won the 4A title in 2004.

And now they’re all one big happy family in KingCo 4A.

And for Newport, looking for it’s fourth title in as many years, it will be an uphill battle to even return to state, as only one KingCo team makes it to districts, where they’ll fight for one state berth with the Wesco conference.

“We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us,” Griffin said.

Luckily, the cupboards not bare for the Knights. Newport lost many key contributors to last year’s title to both graduation, like standout Brett Konen, and some players simply left to rejoin club gymnastics, Griffin said.

Returning to the Knights are senior captains Rachel Wirtz and Tiffany Toyohora. Wirtz placed 21st in the all-around competition at state last season and Toyohora took 57th. Griffin expects both to have standout seasons for Newport.

“They’ve been on the team for four years and both have either been to finals in state or competed in state,” she said. “We’re looking at them to really lead our team.”

Newport also returns sophomores Kim Ito and Dayna Ko, who Griffin says “really matured” over the past year.

Griffin points out that while as many as 15 of Newport’s 32 gymnasts had little-to-no gymnastics experience, she says the group is “really clean” and as many as 27 of them can participate in all four

“They might have limited club experience in the past, but they all have really really strong basics,” Griffin said. “We’re been pretty fortunate to be clean, but we certainly have our work cut out for us.”

The Knights also had to deal with the loss of Taryn Gillies, a member of the state team who was killed in an automobile accident two months after the state meet. Griffin said dealing with the tragedy has helped to bring the team together.

“I think this year is dedicated in her name,” Griffin said. “We certainly have a mountain to climb but with her in our hearts, we can conquer anything.”

There’s no denying Newport is in for a fight for a return to state, but since taking over three years ago, Griffin’s done nothing but win. She even won six state titles herself at Newport - then competing as Farrah Fabien - where she was a part of the 1994 state championship team that snapped Sehome’s seven-year title reign. Joining her this year on staff is Amber Jenkins, a Newport assistant who was also part of the ‘94 team for the Knights.

“We don’t focus on winning state titles and I know that sounds boring, but its true,” Griffins aid. “You can’t control the judges and the outcome, but you can control yourself. But if we go out there and give them no reason to give us a deduction, we’ve done our jobs.

“But it is easier said than done.”

Joel Willits can be reached at 425-453-5045 or at jwillits@bellevuenews.us.