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Bothell Cougars flying high, scoring big/ Gymnastics Spotlight

Raynie Hultgren bounced from one event to the next, shaking her ponytail and grinning with a look of confidence in her eyes.

Last season, the Bothell High gymnast couldn’t strut with such strength since she was battling a left knee injury. But at last week’s premier 4A Kingco meet of the season against fellow powerhouses Newport, Ballard and Woodinville, Hultgren hit top form with scores ranging from 9.0 to 9.45 on all four events and snagged third all around with 37.0.

Bothell took fourth, but notched its top score of the season, 166.90, and is regarded as a state contender. (Bothell hit a 179.25 a few years ago, but Woodinville nudged the Cougars out of a state spot.)

Hultgren was proud of both her and the Cougars’ accomplishments on the Jan. 6 evening.

“It feels really great, especially since I can do club and high school,” said Hultgren, a junior, who also competes for Northwest Aerials. “I knew it was gonna be a close meet, and I was glad to compete with the other girls.”

She enjoyed performing her floor routine (9.45), noting that her dancing was especially solid. Her bars routine will surely score higher than 9.0 when she adds some more skills, Hultgren added.

Another key to success for Hultgren was that “I got lots of sleep last night,” she said with a laugh, “I got all my homework done early ... I was excited for the meet.”

Hultgren isn’t the only Cougar who can’t contain their energy when the beam, vault and bars are set up and the floor-exercise mat is rolled out. Seniors Michayla Craig, Sophie Reynolds and Karli Bodine and junior Kelsey Meyer are about as fired up as they come when discussing meets.

“Honestly, you walk in and we’re setting up and you’re automatically awake,” said Craig, daughter of head coach, Mitch. “And before floor, you could be dead (tired) and you get on floor and you hear your music and you just wake up. It’s freaky at the beginning, but then (it’s cool).”

Added Bodine, who notched a 9.4 on floor and a 9.05 on beam last week: “It’s amazing what people can do when you’re in a competition and how much harder they try. Moves they’ve never made, but then in a meet they do them perfectly.”

Bothell not only boasts a crop of talented seniors and juniors, but has plenty of youngsters who are making an impact. At last week’s meet, everyone got in on the action and had the crowd cheering for them.

“Every single one of our girls work hard. We have a lot of young, raw talent who look up to us, but you can also look at them and they’re working so hard — it’s a good thing,” Meyer said.

Added Reynolds: “It’s fun to see them learning and getting better.”

Bodine is the Cougars’ lone state returner, scoring a 9.0 on beam and tying for 11th with Inglemoor’s Katie Thoma last February at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Center. As a freshman, she qualified for state on beam and floor.

“It was a little disappointing I didn’t do my best,” Bodine said of state in 2010. “But it just makes me want it even more, to improve the next year and wanting to get back out there and work harder and go back again your senior year and do your best.

“Clean it up, add dance on beam, try to improve each skill and make them bigger and better.”

Inglemoor

Viking coach Matt Watson’s got some solid gymnasts in seniors Thoma and Lauren Eykholt and sophomore Kira Olsen.

So far this season, Thoma’s top scores are 9.5 on beam and 9.4 on floor, according to Watson. “She’s really graceful and she’s very clean,” he said.

On Eykholt, the coach noted that she’s been solid all around: “For the last four years, she’s been consistent; you know she’s always gonna get a good score on every event.”

As for Olsen, she’s had back and ankle injuries, but is slowly getting back into form on the beam and bars.

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