Lee Bjella 2015

Where Are They Now? (UW Men)

Sho Fukushima to Retire from Navy Men's Gymnastics 2015

Mark Peterson (May 2015)

John Anthony (Feb. 2015)

Charlie Denny (April 2014)

Ricky Mah (Dec. 2014)

Pat Ruckert (Dec. 2014)

Mark Buckingham (Feb. 2013)

Eigil Flaathen (April 2013)

Lars Kolsrud (April 2013)

Coach Hughes by Charlie Peters (Dec. 2013)

Ron Hunter (Dec. 2013)

Chuck Sanders (Feb. 2012)

Bo Bennett (Dec. 2012)

Mike Lovell (2011)

2011 - Mickey Vergillo passed away recently after a battle with melanoma. He was on the team in the early ’60s and was twice selected "Most Inspirational Gymnast" and elected captain for the 1962 season. He was also an outstanding competitive cyclist.

Yoshi Hayasaki 1970 article (Yoshi was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2014.)

Mauno Nissinen 1969 article

2002 Rich Gaylor passed away on April 20, 2002 at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California, at the age of 50. Born December 8, 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he was a long time resident of Redwood City. Rich competed All-Around for the UW team in the early seventies under Dr. Eric Hughes’ leadership. During his time as a Husky, he was a dedicated member of the team and even served as Team Captain. An All-American, he placed second on Vault at Nationals in 1973. After gymnastics, he became an avid golfer. Upon getting his degree from the UW, Rich worked for many years as a Project Manager for Sun MicroSystems. He had also coached in Reno, Nevada, and spent some time in Japan for international marketing. He is survived by his wife Bruna Gasparini-Gaylor of Redwood City.

Bill Carpenter (1971-1974) (May 2010 WMGF Newsletter)

Bill's destiny as a gymnast would surprise no one who knew him as a child. Growing up in Glencoe, Illinois, he enjoyed climbing things, like very tall trees, as well as jumping off of things, like roofs.

The New Trier East high school he attended in Winnetka offered a great gymnastics program that attracted college gymnastic coaches from all over the country. So it was that Bill found himself at the UW in the fall of 1971 with a suitcase and a sense that a great adventure was beginning. Attending such a large school might have been daunting, but being on the team gave him an immediate identity and a great group of friends. Even better was having renowned Husky gymnast, Yoshi Hayaskaki, whom he had previously only read about, as both teammate and mentor.

According to Coach Hughes, Bill tried several events, particularly rings, but wound up as a high bar specialist. He won his Big W as a mere freshman, which was an outstanding accomplishment because of the team's great talent and depth. In Bill's sophomore year, he qualified for the NCAA meet and placed 10th. The next year he won the Pac 10 Conference championship and was voted "Outstanding Gymnast" by his teammates. In his senior year he was undefeated in dual meets and repeated as Conference champion, and his teammates selected him again as "Outstanding Gymnast." Coach Hughes wrote in his end-of-year report that "Bill was like a machine all year, never missing, always perfect."

After graduating from the UW in 1974 with a business degree, Bill attended law school at the University of Colorado. He graduated in 1977 and went on to become a District Attorney. For four years he prosecuted criminal cases, including first-degree murder. After leaving the District Attorney's Office, he went on to represent clients in virtually every area of law.

Gymnastics brought Bill his wife too. He met Jan in high school, where she helped as a score flasher at his high school meets. It was love at first sight and they went on to marry in 1981, as well as raise two sons. Their boys didn't compete gymnastics but both are very athletic, with baseball, soccer and tennis being their favorite sports. Although their kids are attending college now, Bill's family still regularly engages in sports such as skiing, snowboarding, swimming, sailing, water skiing and scuba diving.

Reflecting on gymnastics' impact on his life, Bill told us: "I have no doubt that my experiences training and competing in gymnastics gave me the ability to thoroughly enjoy my life as a husband, father, lawyer and sports enthusiast. I will forever be grateful to Dr. Hughes for giving me the opportunity to compete for the UW. I have often told my children that my college years were my very best."

Having spent the last ten years specializing in the "less stressful and more rewarding area of wills and trusts rather than litigation," Bill is looking forward to retirement in a few years. With his increased free time, he hopes to visit old haunts and friends like the University of Washington and his teammates.

John Deininger (1970 Trampoline/Diving) (May 2010 WMGF Newsletter)

Hi Coach Hughes, Greetings from John Deininger. Saw my name in a recent WMGF newsletter with a questioin if anybody knew anything about me. Yup!...still alive and living across Lake Washington in Redmond, WA. I am 72 now but I still have a trampoline in my back yard and try to keep my kinesthetic balance tuned. I have had an Architecture office for over 40 years. I still compete in Diving in the Masters events...70-75 yr age group and travel all over the world with this activity. I am also President of the World Acrobatics Society and rub elbows with some of the world's best Acrobats from various fields. Among other things the Society has a convention in Las Vegas each year and inducts Legendary Acrobats from many disciplines. Speaking of Gymnasts last year one of our inductees was Valeri Liukiin. Others have been Commaneci, Sakamoto, Pond, Vidmar and the like. Another name you might know is Abie Grossfield who is a member of the World Acrobatics Society. www.worldacro.com

Mike Flansaas (by Eric Hughes from the Fall 2009 WMGF Newsletter)

In one of my recent phone conversations with Mike Flansaas I asked how he got started in gymnastics. Interesting story. In Jr. H,S. he was turning out for the pole vault and 440 in track but while riding his bicycle one day he ran into a car and broke his jaw which had to be wired together. This made it difficult to breathe for track so his coach had him go to the gym to climb the rope. Rope climbing was a gymnastic event back then so Mike got involved with gymnastics and never looked back. He went to Highline H.S. as a sophomore and was on the best team in the state. As a junior he was transferred to a new H.S., Glacier, which had just opened and which had no gymnastic team so he started going to the downtown YMCA a few times a week to work in George Lewis’ program. The coach at Highline HS, Bob Sarver, allowed him to travel with his team but compete for Glacier. Glaciers one man team earned enough points to place second in the state meet when Mike was a senior. (Team scoring in those days – first 11 pts, second 9 pts, third 8 pts, etc. etc. down to 10 places)

Mike was born in Whitefish, MT in 1944. His family moved to Seattle when Mike was two.. He enrolled at the UW on athletic scholarship in the fall of 1962 as an accomplished alrounder and a P.E. major. In 1964 he placed seventh at the NCAA Championships in vaulting. In 1965 he became academically ineligible and was red shirted for the year – the year we placed second to Penn State at the Nationals. His best year was 1966 when he won the Conference championship in vaulting and was elected captain for 1967. Also, in the summer of 1966 Mike was a member of the Husky team (some graduate students included) that toured Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. The Huskies won the national team championship of both Australia and New Zealand.

One of the things I have always regretted in my coaching career is not using Mike at the nationals in 1965. He became eligible at the end of winter quarter so could have competed at the NCAA meet which was the first week of spring quarter. Because he had missed the whole dual meet season we decided jointly that it would be unwise to use a whole year of eligibility for that one meet. In retrospect I believe that was a poor decision. I’m convinced that with Mike’s points we would have beaten Penn State and been national champions. No one remembers who comes second in an athletic event. A championship would have been a great accomplishment for the U of W and a real honor for Mike.

Mike married Dale McClements in 1965. Dale was a national alround champion, a member of the U.S. World team and an Olympian. They had four daughters all of whom were involved in gymnastics for awhile. Three are now living and working in Reno near Mike and one in Anchorage near Dale. They have four grand children. Sometime after Mike and Dale divorced Mike married Cheryl and helped raise her young daughter.

Mike moved to Reno 40 years ago to coach the Univ. of Nevada-Reno gymnastic team. After that program was dropped he opened his own gym – The Reno School of Gymnastics which still exists today under a different name and owner. In 1983 Mike took a job with Circus-Circus Casino and worked there for 18 years until he semi retired in 2001. During this time he continued to coach gymnastics part time and still coaches nine hours a week at “Flips USA Gymnastics”. Mike has been involved in gymnastics his whole life and has “given back” more than his share.

Some quotes from Mike’s email to me:

“I’ve been here in the desert for 40 years now. I haven’t witnessed any tablets being delivered from the mountains but have seen some miraculous things in Reno.”
“Being in Reno afforded me the opportunity to see many old nasties from time to time. The Finn (Gary Finne) was a frequent visitor. He would show up parked in front of my house asleep in his car. Anyone who knew Gary would understand. He was always a hoot. Over the years I’ve seen Eigil Flaathen, Bo Bennett, Mike Lovell, Rick Fonceca, Jan Hardin, Charlie Peters, Yoshi Hayasaki, Dale Shirley, some of the girls from the Y and of course Coach Hughes. I’m sure there are some I’ve missed. Blame it on Alzheimer’s.”
“I have two classic vehicles. Eat your heart out all you enthusiasts. One is a 1953 Chevy pickup that is almost restored; the other a 1969 Caddy convertible in mint condition. I enjoy the looks of envy when I take them out on the road.”
“I’m looking forward to playing more golf, gardening and coaching. I would also like to hear from all of the nasties of the past. My email and phone number are nevnorske@aol.com and775/826-5931. Green lights, blue skies and stick all your landings. Mike in Reno.

Mark Peterson (1965-1969) Taught biology at Newport HS in Bellevue for 10 yrs, and coached boys' gymnastics for 6. Left teaching for electronics, and coached girls' gymnastics at Roosevelt HS for 9 years. Wife Camille (of 32 yrs) and sons Ryan and Chris, all of Seattle.
John Anthony (1965-1969) Wife Margaret - married 31 yrs - two daughters. Worked as Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Seattle. Retired and now works for King County. Motorcycle enthusiast.
Bob Baumann (1967-1970) Wife Audrey and one daughter. Taught German and PE from 71-79 at Lakeside MS. 1980 became professional musician (bass). Taught German and Traffic Safety at Mt. Si HS from 1987-2005.
Bo Bennett (1966-1970) Taught English for three years, principal for five. Earned commercial flying license in 1974. Currently Director of Flight Operations for Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates in Santa Rosa, CA.
Bruce Brinton (1967-1971) Married to Kathryn since 1971, one son, one daughter. Graduated in 1970 with B.A. in business. Residential Mortgage Loan Officer from 1984 to present.
Mark Buckingham (1963-11968) Was gymnast at Highline HS under coach Bob Sarver. Graduated UW with major in history and German. Taught and coached boys' and girls' gymnastics at Issaquah for two years and at Cedar Heights in S. Kitsap for four years.
Rick Fonceca (1968-1972) Taught PE and coached gymnastics and diving in Hawaii. Married to Kathy for 25 years, and lives in Snohomish. Three daughters. 24 years in the car business.
Gary Fox (1968-1972) 38 years in law enforcement in Seattle, Tukwila and Kent - as patrol and traffic motor officer, undercover narcotics detective and SWAT Team Commander. His last 18 years was with the Attorney General's Office in the Sexually Violent Predator Unit. Medal of Valor in 1975 and Governor's Recognition Award in 2002. Married to Kathy, and has a son and daughter, and two grandchildren.
Jack Heavner (1965-1969) Seattle resident since 1960 - but spent four years in Norway from 1981-1985. B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering and works as a structural engineer designing buildings. Married 29 years to Obadinah and they have one son. Lives in Ballard.

Dave Nakanishi by Dr. Eric Hughes WMGF News, Nov, 2008

Beginning his junior year, Dave came on strong to become one of our top All-Arounders. In his senior year, he scored our highest scores on both Floor Ex and Parallel Bars, yet Dave was respected as much for his personal qualities as for his performances. A coach would love to have a whole team of Dave Nakanishi's. Always friendly, positive and cooperative, Dave was a team member first and an individual gymnast second.

Dave writes:
Born in 1953 in Seattle, I attended Lake Washington High School from 1969-71, where I wrestled as a sophomore. I discovered gymnastics through my physical education teacher, Bill Crow. Under Bill, gymnastics was truly a way of life. His teams were not the most talented, but between the cave exploring, rock climbing, kayaking and platform diving we remained a busy group. Any skills we lacked in the gym were made up tenfold in the experiences, skills and friendships we developed.

By my junior year in high school, I was performing adequately in the All-Around. Many of us supplemented our high school work-outs with evenings spent at the YMCA, meeting other like-minded gymnasts and furthering our skills. My senior year, our team became competitive in the state, and I placed second in the All-Around, in spite of a sub-par perfromance on my weak-event, the Pommel Horse.

The next year, Coach Hughes recruited me to the University of Washington. It was unreal and unnnerving to be following in the footsteps of some of the world's best athletes - guys whose careers I had followed while in high school. My first developmental years were tough because I couldn't contribute to the team. Becoming a "Jack of all Trades" required that my Pommel Horse performance improve (considerably), so Dr. Hughes sent a pommel horse home with me for the summer. Still, despite the extra practice, sub-par Pommel performances persisited throughout my career, and even today I can't bear to watch the event.

My Junior and Senior years were absolutely the best years of my gymnastics life. I finally contributed to the team in the gym and navigatinig the academics of University life became standard procedure. I found time to hang out with some of my teammates outside of the gym, most frequently Jay Clark and Mel Cooley. Even after all these years, we still manage to find time to get together.

Presently, my life revolves around work and family. I own and operate a dental laboratory in Bellevue and I live in Woodinville. I've been married 28 years to my wife, Kim and I have two girls in college. I attribute my passion for kayaking, fishing, and boating in the San Juans to my early experiences with the gymnastics crowd. I am also an active member of the WA Men's Gymnastics Foundation along with a great group of UW alums and other enthusiasts of the sport - most notably Mark Russo and Dr. Eric Hughes. Both of these individuals continue to be the driving force of gymnastics in the region, and being part of this gymnastics family is an enviable relationship for those of us fortunate enough to be involved.

Jim Lang, '55-'60 by Coach Eric Hughes (as presented in the WMGF News, March 2008)

After completing his eligibility in 1960 Jim Lang became the announcer for all home gymnastic meets and was given the title “The Voice of the Huskies.” In this way he remained part of the program longer than any UW gymnast. He recently told me, “This gave me a chance to know every gymnast that competed for the UW over a period of 30 years.” I’m sure those of you from the “funded” years will remember the outstanding job Jim
did. During these years as “the voice” he also announced the women’s gymnastic meets for six years, several Pac 10 meets and two national championships for both men and women. There was more to Jim than a voice, however. He had a typical short, muscular gymnastic body and became one of our top performers.

Jim grew up in Seattle, went to Lincoln High School close to the University and started gymnastics in my Extension Classes during his junior year in High School. He entered the UW in the fall of 1955 and became a member of the first funded (official) team at Washington. In 1955 it was a “minor” sport but became a “major” one with big W’s awarded before Jim graduated. He had the honor of being selected captain in his senior year and then was asked to serve as an assistant coach in ’60-’61 while doing graduate work.

Jim Lang was very versatile as a gymnast competing in five to seven events in every meet. Our ten events in those days included flying rings, rope climb, tumbling, and trampoline as well as the present six. Jim is the record holder on flying rings with the highest score ever awarded at the UW. He was northwest AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) champion on trampoline and flying rings. He also competed in several national championship meets both NCAA and AAU.

Mr. Lang was a teacher and guidance counselor at Queen Anne High School for nine years and Mercer Island High School for 21 years. For many of those years he also coached the boys gymnastic team which was a varsity sport in most schools at that time. He reminded me recently that, “One of my gymnasts at Mercer Island was Mark Russo, the present coach of the UW team.”

Jim has been married for 45 years to Linda, a pharmacist, and has two grown children Greg and Britta. Jim and Linda’s passion these days seems to be cruising in their motor/sailer in the Sound, San Juans, and British Columbia. They also travel a lot both in the US and foreign countries. Other hobbies are photography, hiking, and gardening. Jim says that, “I value my time as a gymnast at the UW. Gymnastics gave me the ability to focus and follow through on projects.” Finally and most important Jim and Linda still support our program both financially and by volunteering to work when we host gymnastic competitions. Thanks Jim and Linda.

Pat McGunnigle by Coach Eric Hughes (as presented in the WMGF News, March 2008)

Pat McGunnigle was on the first official gymnastic team at the UW in 1955. I started a competitive gymnastic team in 1950 but we weren't funded and accepted as an intercollegiate sport until 1955 (see the "Where Are They Now" article in the last Newsletter on Jim Lang who was also on the first team). Almost everyone from my first team still donates each year to the WMGF. Pat and Jim are special, however, because they also contribute their time by working at home competitions.

Pat was born in Priest River, Idaho in 1936. During the Second World War, while his father was in the Navy, he lived in many US cities, finally arriving in Bremerton. His mother, a war bride, worked in the shipyards while in Bremerton. After the war, the McGunnigles moved to Everett and then Edmonds. In school Pat participated in wrestling and boxing, not a good sport, he says, for someone with a glass nose like him.

In Edmonds, Pat and a friend started a tumbling club with a membership of two. They watched gymnastics on TV and tried their best to emulate the skills they saw. They taught themselves to do front flips, round offs, back flips, etc. Pat said it took him a year to learn a good handstand but after he gained strength he could press a handstand almost anywhere. He enrolled at the UW in 1954 majoring first in Forestry then in Fisheries. The Fisheries major enabled him to get interesting jobs in the summer in Alaska.

While at the UW he enrolled in a PE gymnastic class which I taught. He had a French class immediately following but found it more enjoyable to stay in the gym and play on the apparatus than to go to his French class. Many a young man has been led astray by me in a similar manner. In the 1955 season Pat was voted the most valuable freshman and in 1958 he was elected captain. This team won the Pacific Northwest team championship which was a well attended meet at the time. At the 1958 Pacific Coast Championships (now the Pac 10) Pat was 5th on rings and 6th in the all-around. Pat took ROTC in school and in 1959 when he graduated joined the army as a Second Lieutenant. He was sent to flight school where he learned to fly fixed wing and then helicopter aircraft.

In 1962 he returned to the UW and got his teaching certificate while remaining in the reserves. Later he got a M.Ed. in science education also from the UW. Mr. McGunnigle taught general science, chemistry, biology, and mathematics in the Shoreline School District for many years. He also coached wrestling and gymnastics at Shoreline High School. In 1971 Pat met Beth who was a student at the UW and also a gymnast at the Seattle YMCA where she was coached by the famous women's coach, George Lewis. Pat and Beth have one son now living in Japan and two married daughters in the Seattle area.

In 1972 Pat and Beth became entrepreneurs. They acquired a boarding kennel and various apartment buildings and mobile home parks. They sold the kennels two years ago but are now in the process of establishing another in the Bothell area where they have purchased a ten acre estate. Beth says she wants to stay busy: retirement is not for her. They have offered their large home and patio to the WMGF as a place to hold picnics and other social gatherings. Thanks Pat and Beth for all you have done and are still doing for the sport of gymnastics and for keeping the contributions flowing our way.

Steve Wejmar by Coach Eric Hughes (as presented in the WMGF News, June, 2005)

The ultimate goal for most college student athletes is to win a national championship and become a "first-team" All-American in the process. One who fulfilled such a dream is former Husky student athlete Steve Wejmar. His stellar career in gymnastics began by winning the State of Washington High School All-Around Championship while at Kent-Meridian High School, where he was coached by another Husky gymnast great, Gunter Bohrmann. Wejmar was an outstanding all-around performer during his three years as a Husky, winning this premier event for Washington im many of the meets and competitions he entered. His excellent all-around ability was even overshadowed by his unbelievable talent as a vaulter. Wejmar did not approach vaulting like other gymnasts, instead, he flew from take-off to landing, covering a greater distance than anyone else in the country. As a sophomore, he won the Pac-10 Conference vault championship and then went on to win the NCAA vault championship, meriting the customary selection of being a "first team" All-American in men's gymnastics. As a junior, Wejmar was even better! Early in the season he shattered the Huskies' highest score for vaulting and then broke his own and the school's all-time record several times later in the season. He easily repeated as conference champion and was favored to win the national championship again.

Unfortunately, Wejmar was forced to withdraw from school following the winter quarter due to family considerations, and therefore was ineligible to compete that spring. Imagine how I especially, his Husky coach, felt with an athlete of his caliber, very likely to repeat as the national champion, and I could not even enter him in the competition! Since his nationally prominent competition period at Washington, Wejmar met his life partner, Susie, and together they have raised two fine boys. He currently works for a specialty book publishing company, and enjoys camping with two of his former Husky teammates, Bert and Gordy Bylin, in addition to playing his guitar.

Meet Coach Mark Russo by Eric Hughes -written in 1999 WMGF newsletter

Mark has been coach since the 1988-89 season so will be starting his tenth year this fall and yet I would guess some of you know little about him.

First let me say Coach Russo is one of the most dedicated gymnastics coaches I know. For his first eight years he volunteered approximately six hours a day not including time for preparation at home, recuriting and attending competitions. Last year (1998) the WMGBC was able to provide a salary of $5,000 and this year we hope to do the same. This works out to about $1.25 an hour. See what I mean - that's dedication to the sport.

Of course no one can live on this salary. Mark supports himself as owner of a laundermat on Eastlake Ave. This sort of occupation allows for flexible hours so he can be in the gym for practices which are sometimes in the morning, sometimes afternoon, and often twice a day.

Coach Russo was born in Seattle in 1961 but moved to Mercer Island while quite young. His father works for the US Army Corps of Engineers. His mother works for Mercer Island School Dist.

Mark was attracted to the sport of gymnastics in his PE classes at Mercer Island Jr. High School and enrolled in my UW Saturday Extension Classes for boys in 1975. The only thing I can remember him saying about those classes was how he hated to do "log rolls". At least I didn't completely drive him away from the sport. He continued his gymnastics at Mercer Island High School which had a competitive team at that time, first under Coach Jim Long, a UW gymnast alum and then under Mace Brady an Eastern WA. graduate.

Mark attended UW and received a degree in Fisheries in 1985. As a freshman he was asked to join the team by Mac Smith who had also graduated from Mercer Island H.S. and was the big-gun on the UW team. Jim Holt, a former WSU gymnast was his coach. (I'll digress with a little history. There have been four head coaches of men's gymnastics at the U. Myself from 1950-1978, Dick Foxal from 1978-1980 when the program was dropped by the Athletic Dept., Jim Holt from 1980-1988 and Mark Russo from 1988-present.)

While Mark was a university student, he started working in the age-group program organized by the University Women's coach, Bob Ito. In 1986 he became head coach of the children's program and when Jim Holt resigned in 1988 also head coach of the men's club team. During this time he moonlighted by coaching at a private gymnastics club in Lynnwood - Cascade Elite. This club is owned by Wayne Kerr, a former Washington gymnast.

Mark is a Washington product - born here, educated here, trained here. He is gung-ho Washington gymnastics. He lives and breathes the sport. We couldn't possibly find a better man for coach. He has consistantly produced quality teams and several outstanding gymnasts including two present National Champions - Jeff Johnson on rings and Sergio Luna on Horizontal Bar. We should all be thanking Mark Russo and giving him our support.

Return to Top

UW Men History Page
History Home Page

PLEASE SEND ANY INFORMATION that you feel would be of value to this chapter or any chapter to Lee - Or fill out an online form - simply add your story and and click submit.