Local gymnasts headed for nationals

Though their motivations are different, local gymnasts Ryan Chriswell, 17, and Brian James, 15, will represent Kitsap County at the Junior Olympics National Championships in San Diego May 1-5.

Chriswell is the gritty veteran making his second consecutive appearance at nationals, while James will make his first appearance.

Members of Port Orchard’s Mile Hill Gymnastics, the duo earned national qualifying marks at regionals in Boise April 5-7.

Chriswell, of Brownsville, is competing in the Junior Elite I Division (16-18 year olds) and Tracyton’s James is competing in the Junior Elite II Division (13-15 year olds).

Mile Hill coach Ed Friedman said both are excited about nationals, but they are going in with completely different goals.

Friedman said Chriswell is determined to make some noise this year.

In awe of the event last year in Minneapolis, Chriswell placed 136th out of 212 competitors.

“Ryan got a little nervous last year,” Friedman said. “This year you can see the difference in his gymnastics. I think he can be in the top 50. He can be in the top 30 if he’s on (his game). He’s experienced and knows what to expect.”

While Chriswell easily qualified for nationals, James had to battle to the last event at regionals to make it.

James needed a 40.5 all-around score to advance to nationals.

“Brian had a rocky beginning but overall he fought pretty hard,” Friedman said. “I asked him if he wanted to know what he needed to qualify and he said ‘yes’. I told him he needed a 7.1., which was his personal best.”

James scored a new personal-best 7.7 to advance and finished regionals in 16th place.

While expectations are higher for Chriswell, Friedman said James is going for educational purposes.

“We just want him to go down and post six good events,” Friedman said. “He’s going down to get exposure and experience.”

Chriswell, who finished eighth at regionals, did so with tendonitis in his knee.

“At the regional competition we weren’t sure he was going to compete,” Friedman said. “But he spent all day with the trainer on site and we took out some of the difficulty on the floor exercise and vault. He needed to hit that meet and he did.”

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