A life of balance

Gymnastics molds Karkanen into a dynamic athlete

Senior year has already been exciting for Emily Karkanen, and now it’s gymnastics season.

The Camas High School cheerleader got to perform at the Tacoma Dome and watch the football team win the state championship game.

“I will never forget that moment when the clock stopped and we won,” Karkanen said. “That night is definitely a highlight of my life.”

The Camas cheerleaders also got to do a routine on the field during halftime.

“It was a once-in-lifetime opportunity,” Karkanen said. “We just embraced it, gave it all we got and just had fun.”

Now, Karkanen hopes to lead the Papermakers to the state meet in gymnastics for the first time in school history.

Camas has a strong squad in seniors Rachel Bennett, Charlotte Burton Courtney Coates and Emma Ware; juniors Alexa Dietz and Jax Purwins; and sophomores Michaela Lasher, Joy Marsh and Madison Martin. There are also 10 freshmen ready to make an impact.

“We’re so blessed to have the new freshmen coming up, because they are so strong and so determined,” Karkanen said. “We are just going to keep that positive mindset, and hopefully it will make us go all the way to state together.”

Karkanen and Marsh are the captains. Marsh dislocated her elbow in practice a week ago. She might not make it back before the season ends, but will continue to help her teammates in any way possible.

“This is definitely a devastation, but I think it’s a realization that nothing lasts forever,” Marsh said. “It will give me time to reflect, and then I will be able to come back stronger.”

Marsh said Karkanen is the perfect captain for this team.

“She always brightens you up when you’re having a bad day,” Marsh said.

Karkanen is thankful for everything gymnastics has given her. She has been coming to VEGA, an academy, in Camas, for 12 years.

“Every time I walk into the gym, I just look around and I have so many flashbacks and happy, positive memories,” she said. “It does feel like a second home. I think I’ve spent more hours here than I have at my actual house.”

She thanks coaches Carol Willson and Zdravko Stoianov for being there for her every step of the way.

“I don’t think we could ask for better coaches. They are amazing mentors and amazing people,” Karkanen said. “They teach us gymnastics, and they teach us life lessons.”

Stoianov said Karkanen is one of a kind.

“That kid started at the very beginning of VEGA,” Stoianov said. “Only a few last as long as she has, and she still loves it. There’s not much more you can ask.”