Eagle River’s Smith eyes gymnastics title

Conference meet set for Saturday at Dimond High


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Chugiak’s Hannah Smith performs her floor routine during a meet Friday, Oct. 18 at Chugiak High.

MIKE NESPER

Eagle River High’s Kenzie Smith has been one of the top Cook Inlet Conference gymnasts all season.

She’ll try to keep that trend going at the CIC meet Saturday, Oct. 26 at Dimond High.

South High’s Tena Newhouse and Jojo Mills should provide strong competition for the conference’s top spot, Wolves’ head coach Angie Bayer said.

Smith is no stranger to pressure.

Earlier this year, Smith competed in the USA Gymnastics Junior National Championships. Keeping her nerves in check shouldn’t be a problem, Bayer said.

“She’s good and disciplined,” she said.

Smith is taking a break from her club team, Denali Gymnastics, as she splits her time between gymnastics and diving for Eagle River.

Smith had been Eagle River’s lone gymnasts, but she recently got a teammate when Celeste Gibson rejoined the Wolves during Chugiak’s “Think Pink” meet Oct. 12.

Bayer said she jokes around with the girls to keep them calm heading into a high-pressure meet.

“I try to make them laugh,” she said.

Having a positive attitude is another key for success, Bayer said.

“I tell them to have confidence in themselves,” she said. “Show yourselves what you can do and have fun doing it.”

That’s one area that needs no improvement, Bayer said. She said Smith and Gibson are hard workers who always cheer for opposing teams.

“You can’t ask for anything other than that,” Bayer said.

South and Dimond typically claim the top two team spots — a trend Chugiak head coach Wendy Wiltfong expects to continue this year — but third place is up for grabs.

“It’s gonna come down to a fall,” she said.

The Mustangs’ team scores have been rising every week, Wiltfong said, which bodes well for the team heading into the season’s final competition.

“Every meet is an improvement,” she said. “They are peaking at the right time.”

Chugiak is coming off a first-place finish at a quad meet with East, Service and Eagle River on Friday, Oct. 18. The Mustangs (165.75 points) edged East (164.5) by 1.25 points and Service (161.3) by 4.45 points.

Smith scored all of Eagle River’s 35.05 points. She finished first in bars, beam and floor and took second in vault to place first all-around.

Chugiak’s Maddie Smith finished second in beam and had a pair of third-place performances (floor, bars) to finish third all-around.

“She’s definitely had a really good season,” Wiltfong said of the Mustangs’ top gymnast.

Alicia Reitz and Bella Wiggins, who finished sixth and eighth all-around, respectively, have been increasing the difficulty in their routines all year, she said.

Wiltfong said her team is prepared and excited for the conference meet, which starts at 10 a.m.

“We’re just working as hard as we can,” she said. “Everyone is looking good.”

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com.

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