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Seattle Pacific University
Spring 2007 | Volume 30, Number 1 | Athletics

National Tournament Returns

SPU hosts gymnastics championship — with the help of local company

Dan Madsen and Amanda King
Leisure Care employees, including CEO Dan Madsen and former Falcon gymnast Amanda King '97, have been cheering on the Falcons at home meets.
Among college sports, gymnastics is unique in one regard: The collegiate years are almost always the end of an athlete’s competitive career.

“You peak in gymnastics when you’re very young,” says Seattle Pacific University senior Sarah Sullivan. “The last day of competition is the last day of gymnastics for us.” But this spring, Sullivan and four other seniors will have the rare opportunity to face that last day in front of a hometown crowd. For the first time in 10 years, the Falcons will host a national meet: the USA Gymnastics Women’s Collegiate Championship.

During the regular season, SPU gymnasts compete in a Division I conference — the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) — mostly against larger schools with higher-funded programs. In the postseason, however, SPU competes against programs of similar size from across the country, thanks to its affiliation with USA Gymnastics (USAG), the governing body that administers club competition and assembles the national and Olympic teams. The top eight USAG-affiliated collegiate teams will gather at Royal Brougham Pavilion April 19–21, 2007, for the championship tournament.

Usually the team’s longest road trip is to the USAG meet, since all but three of the 14 member teams hail from the East Coast. So it’s with conspicuous relief that 32-year veteran Coach Laurel Tindall welcomes the opportunity to host this year’s competition. “It definitely helps to have it on our home floor,” she says. “It’s a familiar facility, and the students don’t have the stress of traveling.”

The Falcons have experienced other stresses in 2007, including injuries and struggles with consistency. But heading into the national meet, an improving Seattle Pacific team had won the MPSF and was ranked fourth among USAG teams. Tindall hopes to at least maintain that ranking during the tournament: “My goal is to get into the final four and compete Friday night.”

The last time SPU hosted this event — in 1997 — the Falcons not only made it to the final four, but they also won the tournament. And today’s team is benefiting from relationships built during that memorable season.

“I was lucky enough to be a part of that great group of girls,” says Amanda King ’97, who earned an SPU degree in communication. King, a close friend and teammate of Falcon Assistant Coach Kathy Siwek ’99, has served for the past couple of years as an experienced mentor — not just attending home meets, but providing encouragement to the athletes.
But this year her involvement took on a new dimension. King works for Seattle-based Leisure Care, which manages 40 retirement communities with nearly 7,000 units throughout the United States and Canada. At Siwek’s suggestion, King asked Leisure Care President and CEO Dan Madsen about a corporate sponsorship for the USAG meet.

A national tournament can be a costly proposition for the hosting school. It’s been an all-hands-on-deck effort for the Athletic Department and the team, but they needed a corporate sponsor to provide the resources for a first-class event. Madsen said yes to the sponsorship, but didn’t stop with just writing a check. King and other Leisure Care employees have shown their support by attending home meets and helping motivate the athletes to prepare aggressively for the championship meet.

Leisure Care
Leisure Care's Luke Frank '00 and Matt Edwards '00
So what do Leisure Care and SPU have in common? More than you might expect. Both institutions see themselves as agents of change: SPU seeks to graduate people of character who will influence the world for good, while Leisure Care seeks to change perceptions about aging by promoting healthy, active lifestyles for its residents. To achieve this, Madsen says he hires employees with strong core values, knowing that they’ll provide the best service.

So far, Leisure Care has three employees and a board member who are SPU alumni, and Madsen suggests those numbers may grow as his company pursues a deeper relationship with the University. Besides King, another Seattle Pacific alum on the Leisure Care staff is Luke Frank ’00, who serves as the PrimeFit manager, helping create customized exercise programs for Leisure Care’s active senior residents. Leading the company’s corporate communication department is Matt Edwards ’00.

Gymnasts may have to give up competing after college, but they can choose to keep their relationships. That’s how, 10 years after their last competition, Siwek and King found a tournament sponsor when the team needed one. For King, the effort has already been worthwhile. “We’ve had a chance to be a positive influence in the lives of these young gymnasts, and all the other visiting athletes,” she explains.

One positive influence leads to another, she says, and 10 years from now — who knows? Today’s gymnasts will likely be helping another generation of athletes make the most of their university experience.

— by Martin stillion

— Photos by Daniel Sheehan and Luke Rutan


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Department Highlights

National Tournament Returns
For the first time in 10 years, SPU will host the USA Gymnastics Women's Collegiate Championship — with the help of a local company.

Pixler Excels in Multiple Sports
Freshman phenom Jessica Pixler broke records on her way to a stand-out cross country season.

Falcons Bring Home GNAC Titles
Both the menís and womenís basketball teams brought home conference titles in 2007.