When Anissa Madrid joined the Kennedy High School gymnastics team as a freshman, she wasn't sure if it was a fleeting thing. Then, when she fractured vertebrae in late August practicing...

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When Anissa Madrid joined the Kennedy High School gymnastics team as a freshman, she wasn’t sure if it was a fleeting thing.


Then, when she fractured vertebrae in late August practicing a new release and dismount from the uneven parallel bars, Madrid didn’t know what her future was with the Lancers.


A 13-year club gymnast, Madrid is back as a sophomore. Madrid hopes when she’s healed, she’ll be back better than ever.


With more fun to be had.


“I’m back and I plan on being with the team for the next three years,” said Madrid, one of the Lancers’ leaders along with senior Kim Merlich. “At first, my club coaches didn’t approve of it, but being on the (Kennedy) team is just something I love and it’s good to be involved with your school.


“It relieves the stress of club gymnastics. I realized last season that I wanted to come back to the team around league, district and state.”


Her freshman season with Kennedy might be hard to top.


Madrid secured four individual titles against Class 3A/2A competition at last season’s state meet. Madrid won the bars outright with a score of 9.525 and shared first in the balance beam (9.6) with Merlich. Madrid also shared first in the floor exercise (9.675) and vault (9.35), both with Bainbridge’s Brooke Nall.


It was only third time a Washington gymnast had swept the individual events at state. Inglemoor’s Taunia Rogers pulled off the feat in 1982, and Katie Dinsmore of Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) did it in 2002.


Madrid’s four championships came a day after she placed second behind Nall in the state all-around competition, helping Kennedy to fourth in the team race. Nall narrowly edged Madrid 37.725 to 37.6. Both expect to be back to go for the all-around crown Feb. 18-19 at the Tacoma Dome.


In the meantime, she hopes to lead the Lancers to their third consecutive Seamount League championship.


“She brings a lot of inspiration to the team and a lot of excitement to the team,” Kennedy coach Kim Katzenberger said of Madrid. “She made and had a lot of friends on the team, so that made it more like a family.”


Katzenberger realized that Madrid had formed a bond with high-school teammates and anticipated her return this season.


“She was undecided most of the season, but by the end of the year, you kind of knew,” the JFK coach said. “She said she’d really miss Kim a lot. That’s what changed her mind. The team is a big part of her life now.”


Then, the back injury put her high-school season in question again. Madrid worked hard to get back in shape after sitting out two months with the injury, which occurred when she lost her grip on the bar.


“I was just practicing, trying a new release move and I landed awkwardly,” said Madrid, who competes in club with Metropolitan Gymnastics in Tukwila. “The impact was so hard that it fractured the vertebrae in my back. I landed on my feet, but I guess it was just the pressure on my back.


“At first, I thought it’s going to be OK. Then, I couldn’t move for the next 30 minutes. I also pulled a couple of muscles around my spine.”


The determined Madrid, who stands 5 feet 1¾ and weighs 112 pounds, kept going to the gym, so as to not lose her affection for the sport. She also lifted weights to remain strong.


“For high school, I’m at full strength,” Madrid said. “I would say that I’m now about 80 percent healthy. Through this, I learned to be patient. You can’t just push an injury. I did a lot of weights for my arms, my stomach, my thighs and my legs.


“This back injury made me realize how much I love this sport.”


Madrid still wears a back brace under her leotard for the floor exercise only. She’s still working up to her best on her best event, the balance beam. She’s working toward a scholarship in gymnastics, hopefully to a Pac-10 school.


“I have the passion for the sport,” Madrid said. “It’s sad that the injury happened, but it makes you realize a lot of things.”


She missed swimming with Kennedy this fall while her back healed, but hopes to come back as a junior.


Madrid hopes to put to use what she has learned and soon things will be back in balance in the gym.