Closure forces gymnastics teams to be flexible

North Kitsap gymnastic students warm up Nov. 25 in the North Kitsap High School Commons.  The gymnastics programs for both NKSD high schools lost their practice facility when Zero Gravity closed earlier this month.     - Kipp Robertson/ Herald
North Kitsap gymnastic students warm up Nov. 25 in the North Kitsap High School Commons. The gymnastics programs for both NKSD high schools lost their practice facility when Zero Gravity closed earlier this month.
— image credit: Kipp Robertson/ Herald

POULSBO — The start of the winter sports season was a bit of a headache for high school gymnastics teams.

On Nov. 4, a week before the Kingston and North Kitsap high school teams were scheduled to begin practicing, North Kitsap head coach Kris Goodfellow was told Zero Gravity Athletics was being evicted from its space. Zero Gravity was used by both high school teams, and its own program, for training.

Zero Gravity owner Kinda Moreno had to have all the equipment out of the Zero Gravity building in the Kennedy Business Park — off Minder Road in Kingston — by Nov. 8, Goodfellow said.

“We were a little homeless for a week,” Goodfellow said.

Things began coming together, however. The North Kitsap team moved into the North Kitsap High School Commons Nov. 20, sharing a space with the cheerleaders — after using the auxiliary gym and wrestling mats for the first few days of practice. Practice was light for the past week with just a few mats to use.

“We’re kind of off to a slow start, but thankful for having a facility,” Goodfellow said.

With nothing but a few mats, tile floors and lunch tables, the commons isn’t the most ideal practice venue. Cascade Elite Gymnastics West stepped in to make things a little more accommodating this week.

The gymnastics facility in Bremerton offered a list of equipment the high school team could borrow. Cascade Elite founder and owner Frank Lee said the high school team could borrow anything his facility is not using in day-to-day operations. The team can use the equipment as long as they need to, he said.

“We are heavily committed to giving back to the community,” Lee said. “I’ve always believed in helping keep high school programs alive.

“It’s a wonderful sport … If I can help in any way, I’ll do it.”

The North Kitsap team is limited to what it can use in the commons, however, because the team will have to setup and break down equipment each day.

“That pretty much limits what kind of equipment they can put out,” Lee said. The team couldn’t assemble and disassemble a full gym — it would take the entire practice.

As of Nov. 25, a beam and vault equipment from Cascade Elite were sitting in a storage room in the commons, ready for use.

The team needed a runway and more mats.

Goodfellow said some of North Kitsap’s equipment still sits in the former Zero Gravity facility.

The alternative to the commons would be much less cost efficient, and potentially damaging to the program. If the team opted to continue to use a facility, it would require busing students to Silverdale or Bremerton. Busing would be a cost of about $300 per day, five days a week, an expense the district could not cover for the team, Goodfellow said.

Goodfellow said she also could have capped the program as well, but that goes against what she believes in.

Capping the program would also mean many students would not be allowed to participate. Despite knowing they would not be in Zero Gravity this season, 30 students enrolled in the North Kitsap program in the first day, Goodfellow said. Enrollment in the program had increased as of Nov. 25, she said.

Another alternative would be to lease space. Breidablik Elementary is empty, but the district will not open it for the program, Goodfellow said. District administrators have said they will not open up the elementary for temporary use because of the costs associated with it.

It isn’t unheard of for the gymnastics team to be housed in the school. Years ago, the team shared mats with the wrestling team, Goodfellow said. The district’s gymnastics program began in the 1960s at North Kitsap High School.

The move to the commons could actually be beneficial for the cheerleading program. Cheerleading head coach Kristina O’Connor said having the gymnastics team might give the cheerleaders access to more mats. There are also two students signed up for both programs, so this may allow them to stick with both through the winter season, she said.

The commons were expected to be even more crowded Nov. 25. The Kingston Buccaneers were expected to begin practicing in the commons as well, but did not show up. The team is expected to join the North programs soon.

The Bucs have practiced on foldout mats in a wing of the high school’s instructional building. The first week they were in the gymnasium, before basketball practice began. The Bucs are limited to working on basic tumbling and dance skills, according to head coach Sheila Moore.

The Bucs will move over to the North Kitsap Commons to have access to equipment. There is also a plan to have optional practices at Olympic Gymnastics Center in Silverdale to get time on a spring floor, according to Moore. The Bucs are making the best of a difficult situation.

“We are doing everything we can to keep [gymnastics] alive in our community,” Moore wrote to the Herald. “I am thankful for the years of support by the district and the community, and I am looking at it as a hiccup.

“It has slowed us down, but we will find a way to get the momentum going again.”


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