Dietz, Camas go over the top

Gymnastics team heads to state for the first time

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Alexa Dietz captured the 4A district gymnastics all-around championship for Camas Saturday, at Battle Ground High School.

A Camas gymnast won each event at the district meet, but getting every girl on the team to the state meet for the first time in school history was the ultimate dream come true.

“We worked so hard for this, and our hard work paid off,” said team captain Emily Karkanen. “I’m just so proud of our whole team. We all contributed to the team score.”

The Papermakers collected 170.575 points to win their fourth straight district title. And this time, the district champion goes directly to state instead of having to compete at a regional meet.

“We finally get to show the teams at state what Camas gymnastics has to offer,” said head coach Carol Willson. “We built the program up strong the last four years, and it’s time to go.”

Alexa Dietz captured the all-around championship for Camas.

“I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but it happened,” she said. “I worked really hard, and I’m really excited for state.”

The junior started off strong by winning the floor exercise, her favorite event, with a 9.625.

“Floor was exciting because I had all my favorite people around,” Dietz said. “I felt their presence. Let’s do it!”

Dietz then did a handspring on to the vault and soared through the air. She couldn’t secure the landing, but still won the event with a 9.0.

“It’s a lot scarier, but it’s really worth it. Really fun,” Dietz said. “When you’re flipping through the air, you’re like ‘whoa!'”

Jax Purwins placed second in the all-round with 35.4 points. She won the bars, with an 8.8, took second on the vault, with an 8.95, and finished fourth on the floor, with a 9.3.

Sophomore Madison Martin came through by clinching first on the beam, with an 8.95. Winning the team title was more important to her.

“It’s really exciting going to state with everybody because you get to be with all your friends,” Martin said. “I’m looking forward to the bus ride, staying in the hotel and competing.”

Although she battled the flu, freshman Siena Brophy claimed fifth place on the beam.

“I felt like our whole team pulled through in the end,” she said. “We all just came together and supported each other. And I think our scores really reflected that. It was a good meet for everyone.”

After spending 10 days in Africa doing volunteer work for Columbia Presbyterian Church, Charlotte Burton flew home just in time to perform her floor routine at districts.

“I felt like I was a little behind, but I really pushed through and got those points for the team,” Burton said. “I was just really glad and lucky I got to compete at all.”

Karkanen earned sixth place in the all-around with a 34.25. The CHS senior was voted 4A Greater St. Helens League Gymnast of the Year.

“I just want to say ‘thank you’ to all the coaches, all the different teams and all the judges,” Karkanen said. “This has been my sport since I was very, very little. And I couldn’t be more happier being the Gymnast of the Year.”

Willson has been coaching Karkanen since she was 5.

“She’s a daughter. She’s a love,” Willson said. “She’s just so good with these girls. So encouraging. It’s going to be sad when we have to say ‘goodbye’ to her.”

Camas competes at the state meet Feb. 17 and 18, at the Tacoma Dome.

“I just want them to do their best,” Willson said. “Most of all, have a fun experience. And represent Camas and the community well.”