Camas gymnastics team harnesses power of ‘Joy’

Team captain Joy Marsh returns after dislocating shoulder to lead Papermakers

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Camas head coach Carol Willson (left) watches team captain Joy Marsh swirl through the air off the vault at Naydenov Gymnastics Center, in Vancouver. Marsh returns from a dislocated shoulder injury to help the Papermakers build on their second place finish at state last season.

Although a dislocated shoulder prevented her from competing, Joy Marsh never abandoned her best friends on the Camas gymnastics team.

“The girls are just so loving and caring,” she said. “It’s just a really good environment to be in because we’ve known each other for years.”

When the Papermakers qualified for the state championship meet for the first time in school history, Marsh was determined to be a part of the experience. She mustered up the courage to perform on the vault and contributed to the team’s second-place finish.

“It was such an amazing experience. That was my first time competing at state. The year before, we didn’t even get to go, so it was really incredible,” Marsh said. “(Standing on that podium) was so surreal. Camas had never gotten that high (in gymnastics) before. It just blew our minds.”

Head coach Carol Willson was proud of the Papermakers for earning that moment together, and said she hopes they can duplicate that success with an even younger squad. Senior Jacqueline Purwins is back after placing third on the bars and fourth in the all-around competition at state. Marsh and Madison Martin, both juniors, are ready to lead the team as captains.

“So far, we’re doing good. Everyone is really positive and giving it their all,” Martin said. “We’re all becoming like one big family.”

Two freshmen are breathing new life into the program. Shea McGee earned first place in the all-around for the Papermakers at a four-team meet Saturday, at Naydenov Gymnastics Center. The freshman racked up 36.7 points after placing first on the floor (9.4), second on the beam (9.5), second on the bars (9.0) and third on the vault (8.8). Fellow Camas freshman Alyssa Shabata clinched first place on the bars (9.2), fourth place on the floor (9.0) and sixth place in the all-around (34.95).

“I think those two freshmen are going to be state contenders in the all-around,” Willson said. “They’re good friends and they feed off each other.”

Camas collected 174.5 points to defeat Columbia River, Heritage and Union. Willson said this was the most points the team scored at a meet in school history.

“Huge improvement in just one week,” she said. “We still need to work on our endurance to complete our routines, but I expect big things from these girls.”

McGee said she has been competing in gymnastics for about 11 years. She moved to Camas from Colorado about a year ago.

“I really like this gymnastics team. All the girls are so sweet and supportive,” McGee said. “I enjoy getting to learn all the respect and etiquette that goes into the sport, all the friends you get to make throughout it, and working hard to accomplish our goals together.”

Willson is proud of both captains for their dedication. Marsh completes multiple workouts at the gym. Martin organizes the team’s social engagements, away from the competition.

Marsh and Martin hope they can inspire the Papermakers with positivity and encouragement.

“I just want to be the best example I can set,” Marsh said. “Just do my best and hope that’s enough for them.”

Martin tells the girls to stay focused, but remeber to have fun.

“It’s about competing, but it’s also about the friends you make on the team.”