Camas gymnasts balanced by seven years of togetherness

Four seniors have been with the same coach since middle school

After seven years of building a gymnastics family in Camas, the four senior aces are looking forward to the next three months and dreading them at the same time.

Amanda Bolton, Ashley Gjerswold, Alicia Hamlin and Amy Siebenthaler have been together with head coach Jennifer McDonnell since their days at Skyridge Middle School. They all share the same dream, to give every Camas girl an opportunity to compete at the state meet in the Tacoma Dome. It is a special honor awarded to only the top two teams at districts.

“Our bond has only gotten stronger and deeper from being together for so long, and the new girls are jumping right in,” Bolton said.

“We really want to make it to state as a team,” Gjerswold said. “Every year we say that, but we’ve learned that it doesn’t happen overnight. We have to work up to it.”

“It’s all about getting our skills down every week,” Hamlin said. “If we do that, we can get to state.”

“This year, we want to be more confident,” Siebenthaler said. “The more confident we are, the more the judges are going to see that.”

Returning gymnasts include juniors Grace Giordano and Hayden Sutton. Sophomores Audrey and Anna Siebenthaler look forward to one more season competing alongside older sister Amy. Also back in the mix are sophomores KaCey Caswell, Emily Early, Katelynn Jones, Jessica Meyer and Hali Ramirez. Rounding out the rotation are newcomers Nicole Dietzman, Virginia Duley, Kayla-Ann Hawley, Kylan Meyer, Kacie Ramage, Honor Stevenson, Kacee Webb and Jamie Woods.

“We have a great group of 21 strong gymnasts. It will be nice for the seniors, and for me personally, to see them all the way through,” McDonnell said. “It will be a good season. I can feel it in the air.”

The Papermakers could be in for a rollercoaster of emotions, but McDonnell and assistant coach Lauren Alberts want them to enjoy the ride and work as hard as they can.

“A lot of heart and soul is going into this year. We are all excited,” Alberts said. “Right now, we’re just getting picky. Each skill, each leg and each toe point is what is going to separate us from the rest. These girls have had these skills for so long. It’s time for all of them to bring it home.”

“I hope this is the season we all go to state as a team,” McDonnell said. “For the girls who have been with us all of these years, you hope this is their season. Seven years of hard work have gone into this season. All of these girls deserve it.”

Camas and Columbia River appear to be the front runners, but Fort Vancouver, Hudson’s Bay and Stevenson also look strong. The addition of Mountain View could turn the 3A Greater St. Helens League upside down.

“Our girls are improving,” McDonnell said. “They are gaining new skills, and they have the drive.”

Perhaps it comes from the foundation built by the four Camas gymnasts who’s names start with the letter “A.”

“I love working out and practicing with the team,” Amy Siebenthaler said. “I love gymnastics. It’s my life.”

“It’s fun working with new girls and watching ourselves develop over the years. We’ve all changed so much,” Bolton said. “I have a picture from our end of the year party in seventh grade, and it’s hard to recognize us. We were all so little.”

After seven years of togetherness, these four best friends have only three more months to craft the final chapter to a story that will never be forgotten.

“We want to provide a representation that allows the freshmen, sophomores and juniors to come back next year and have the same bond and relationship when we’re not here to carry it through,” Siebenthaler said.

“We want to leave a legacy,” Bolton added.

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