Junior Rikki Ulrich shines despite Spartan gymnasts’ last-place finish

December 18, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

Rikki Ulrich, Skyline High School junior, goes heels over head in the dismount during her winning balance beam routine for a score of 8.75, on the way to her winning all-around score Dec. 13 against Eastlake. By Greg Farrar

The Skyline High School gymnastics team may have finished fourth behind Eastlake, Redmond and Roosevelt on Dec. 13, but it had the top-place finisher in four of the five categories.

Rikki Ulrich, a junior at Skyline, cartwheeled down the line to the springboard before flipping up and off the vault to score 8.9 points and earn the win. On the uneven bars, Ulrich started out on the upper bar, so she could complete two bar changes by the end of her routine, which she ended with a giant fly away for 7 points and a two-way tie for sixth.

“I kind of just close my eyes and go,” she said about bar. “I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s just second nature.”

Beam brought Ulrich another win with an 8.75. She strung together several jumps and flips in the floor competition before winning with a score of 9.6. In the end, she racked up 34.25 points to win the all-around.

The 16-year-old did all this while working through back pain, which she has been dealing with for three years.

“I think it’s just overuse mainly,” Ulrich said. “It definitely impacts me, but I try to work through it because if it’s already lasted for three years then it is staying there … It makes me work harder. I don’t think it makes me better, but it gives me more drive.”

With her glittering green eye shadow sparkling brightly under the gym lights, Skyline junior Alyssa Holt sprang onto the beam for a routine that combined two backward cartwheels, a pirouette, leaps and stretching her right foot up to meet her head. Her score of 7.2 earned her sixth place in the beam competition. Holt also took sixth place in floor with a score of 8.1.

“It’s not that hard. I actually didn’t practice it this week,” she said about starting out with a leap onto the balance beam, which she said is her strongest event. “People say I have good lines. The judges like my leaps and jumps, and hopefully back-handspring series.”

Holt has been in the sport since she was 3 years old and brings a lot of leadership to the team.

“We are progressing really well,” she said. “We all show up and we all work hard. We do a lot of conditioning, and we all have a great attitude when we come in sore the next day.”

The Skyline Spartans also had two top 10 finishers in the floor competition. Sophomores Kelly Lin took ninth with 7.5 and Niki Pantelich came in fifth with 8.4.

Up next

Skyline vs. Bothell

  • 7 p.m. Jan. 10
  • Issaquah High School
  • 700 Second Ave. S.E.

All those performances helped Skyline earn 141.85 team points, reaching its team goal of scoring more than 140 points.

“Our first meet we started with a 130.5 — that’s higher than we got for most of last year, so it’s a good start for us,” coach Michelle McCombs said. At the Dec. 8 meet, the team bumped it up to 137. “Hopefully, we just keep growing and improving our score every week … that’s my goal, as a coach.”

McCombs said she has a good mix of girls this year, those who bring years of experience and those that are new to the sport and are willing to give it their all. One newcomer is junior Vica Tkatch, who had never competed on the bars before Dec. 13. For her first time out, she scored 4.

“That’s pretty good,” said McCombs. “We are excited to see the new ones starting with such good scores. That is nice to see.”

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