Kentlake’s Kayla Shira has the Falcons' gymnastics team sitting pretty

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It wasn’t that the Kentlake gymnastics team desperately needed Kayla Shira when the winter season began.

The Falcons already boasted a solid group of gymnasts and a bevy of state veterans — Lynnsey Thielman, Brianne Gould and Becca Peterson — as well as a handful of newcomers more than capable of driving the team to the Class 4A state meet.

But still, every school day, Kentlake head coach Marla Boyd had to wonder: “What if?”

That “what if” was Kayla Shira, who despite starting at Auburn Gymnastics Club down the road, had never competed on the school team.

“I have Kayla in class, I was her Spanish teacher, so we always connected on gymnastics,” Boyd said.

Though Boyd never pushed Shira to compete for the school team, it was clear that the Level 10 club experience she possessed would make a considerable difference. As would, of course, Shira’s dedication, work ethic and skill.

Getting the senior to turn out would simply be a “cherry on top of the ice-cream sundae.”

So when Shira came in before the season began to announce her intention to turn out, it was better than a trip to Baskin and Robbins for Boyd.

“I know in her junior year she was interested and kind of wanted to come out, but she didn’t want to give up her club experience,” Boyd said. “But this year — her senior year — was her last chance. So she came in one day and said, ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to do high school 100 percent.’ And I said, ‘Okay, good to have you.’”

For Shira, who has competed for her club team for more than 10 years, it was about taking her final opportunity to have some fun in high school.

“Everybody always talked about how much fun they had in high school gymnastics and how much more of a team sport it is,” Shira said. “It’s a lot less stressful and it’s my senior year and I wanted to try something new. It has been awesome. I love it.”

Shira first turned out for gymnastics when she was six.

“My cousin started and my mom put me in to get rid of some of the energy that I had,” Shira said.

Initially, Shira said she started with Diaz Gymnastics, run by Kentwood head coach Ann Diaz, before moving to Auburn Gymnastics.

Although she said she enjoyed the sport immediately, Shira added it took awhile before she was able to compete.

“I didn’t start off very good at gymnastics at all,” she said. “But eventually I saw people doing really big skills and I wanted to also.”

By the time she had moved up the Level 5 gymnastics, Shira was beginning to get the notion that this might be the sport for her.

“We won state at level five,” she said.

Shira currently spends more than 25 hours a week in the gym practicing. She starts practicing immediately after the last bell at Kentlake High, going from 2:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. for the Falcons, before heading to Auburn to practice with the club team until 8 p.m.

All that time practicing, however, has been worth it.

“I guess it’s really shaped me as a person,” she said. “I wouldn’t know what to do without it. I’ve been doing it so long. It’s made me really responsible and dependable and made me dedicated to the team.”

In addition to the intangibles that come along with Shira, Boyd said she also has made a significant impact on the mats and on the scoreboard.

“Kayla is a really solid gymnast, so we know we can always count on her to hit her routines and help the team score,” Boyd said. “Also, I think a lot of the girls look up to her because she is such a good gymnast and the highest level gymnast on the team. So I think it inspires the rest of the team to push themselves and get new routines and better scores.”

This season, Shira has distinguished herself in the South Puget Sound North division, posting several all-around scores above 37. In spite of her already high levels, Boyd said she believes that her potential is still unreached.

“She’s getting really high all-around scores,” she said. “She’s such a well trained gymnast, that she’s still got routines that she’s been working on for club that she hasn’t put into her high school routines yet. But in high school, she just needs to be solid.”

And if she’s solid, Boyd said she’s confident that Shira has a chance at snagging the 4A title this season.

“I think she is a contender,” she said. “I don’t remember what the all-around score was last year, but I think that it’s in the range that she can hit. She can definitely hit all 9.5s on every event. Also, when we’re at our local meets we’re not on the spring floors, so there are more skills that she could do on the floor. But she has a 10.0 start value on every event except the vault.”

Last year’s state title all-around Class 4A score was 37.3 posted by Emerald Ridge’s Brianna Howe and Lake Washington’s Sienna Viltz, who tied for first.

For Shira, her goals are more than simply getting to state.

She’s hoping she has some company on the winner’s podium.

“I want to go to state,” Shira said. “I have a lot of friends on other teams. My friends from Tahoma, Brianna McKenney and Lexi (Matthews), we all want to finish one-two-three at state. We haven’t decided who is where yet, we just want to have the top of the podium.”

KEITH, K-M ready for postseason

Last week, Kent-Meridian’s Nora Keith posted another all-around win in the North Kitsap, Federal Way and Rogers quad meet at Kent-Meridian High School.

Keith notched a 36.50 all-around score, fueled by four first-place finishes in the She also scored a 8.6 on the bars, a 9.2 on the beam, a 9.5 in the floor exercise and a 9.2 on the vault. Teammate Kim Concillado grabbed third in the floor competition with an 8.7 score.

“That was good, it’s the first time she’s ever placed in the top-three,” Kent-Meridian coach Rachel Watanabe said.

North Kitsap came out on top in the team competition with a 152.8 score, followed by the Royals with a 147.95, Federal Way with a 138.0 and Rogers with a 132.1.

Now on the brink of the postseason, the Royals are hoping to make some noise at the next level.

“We’re pretty close to where I thought we’d be,” Watanabe said. “It’s been kind of hard with all the reschedules with the snow and everything else. But we’re doing good and progressing well. I’m pretty excited about the postseason. I think at least my top four have a chance to qualify for districts. And I think that Nora has a chance of qualifying for state. I’m just kind of excited to get there. Now it’s just seeing if they can all put together at the right time.”


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