Through a conspicuous side door of a Preston industrial complex building and down a short hallway that smells faintly of a wet dog, the Issaquah gymnastics team gathers four times a week for practice.
It’s not a familiar scene for returners, but one the 23 members of this year’s team have learned to live with.
“It’s definitely hard to get used to a different setting and not being able to stay after school,” sophomore Risa Fukuda said.
Ongoing construction at IHS has forced the Eagles to make a 6-mile trek after school to train in a gym located between a dog training facility, Cascade K-9, and Gymnastics East. Construction also left the team without a gym to host meets in.
“Every meet’s an away meet, so I guess it kind of eliminates the home court advantage when you don’t have one,” 10th-year head coach Ryan Fleisher said. “But I want them to feel like Issaquah High School, I want them to go out there and be Issaquah High School, so it’s just really reminding them of the pride and traditions and keeping that alive …”
So far the team has done just that – despite the nomadic nature of the season and entering a new KingCo 4A conference. In fact, Issaquah went a perfect 7-0 in regular season meets, was regular season KingCo Crest champions and finished third in the KingCo 4A league meet last Saturday. They also defeated rival Newport three times this season. The Knights beat the Eagles all but one time over the last four years, and edged them for the 3A state team championship last year.
“We’ve gotten along really well, we’ve bonded really well and I think that’s helped our team do really well,” sophomore Olivia Goree said.
Issaquah is one of four teams to participate in the District 1/2 championships at 1 p.m., this Saturday at Sammamish High School. The Eagles, along with KingCo champion Woodinville, league runner-up Bothell and WesCo champion Shorewood, will vie for the only available team spot from District 1/2. The winner will join three of the other top 4A teams from around the state, Feb. 20-21 during the state championships at the Tacoma Dome. The top two all-around district competitors and the top five competitors from each individual event will also move on to state.
Fleisher noted with all the change this season, the team has remained cautious of setting too many goals.
“This year we haven’t necessarily talked about an end location, more just of what we’re going to do along the way and how we’re going to go about this journey rather than where the journey is to,” she said.
The philosophy seems to have rubbed off on her athletes.
“I just really want to do my best and what will happen is what will happen,” said Goree, who finished second in the beam and seventh in all-around as a freshman.
Fukuda, who was sixth on the floor and 10th on the vault at last year’s 3A state meet, agreed.
“We definitely are a great bunch of girls,” she said. “We just have to do our best.”