Purwins, Papermakers step up at district meet

Camas gymnasts go 1-2-3 in the all-around as squad eyes state title

Shea McGee of Camas in floor exercise at the 4A district gymnastics meet at Battle Ground High School. Photo by Steve Dipaola for The Columbian

Jacqueline Purwins is just having fun this year, and thanks to the senior they know as “Jax”, so are her teammates on the Camas gymnastics team.

Led by Purwins’ all-around victory, the Papermakers posted a season-best point total of 181.7 points in winning the Class 4A district team title on Saturday.

“Wow, just wow,” Camas coach Carol Willson said. “We talked about hitting 180 by the time we got to state, but this is just amazing.”

At the start of the season Willson knew she would have a strong team, thanks to a large influx of talented young gymnasts.

What she didn’t know was if she’d have a couple of seniors return to lead the way.

Alexa Dietz, last year’s district all-around champion, decided to pass on gymnastics after receiving an offer to compete in rowing next fall at San Diego State.

Then Purwins, last year’s district all-around runner-up, found a new passion last spring that she hopes to follow into college — diving. By the fall, her new sport was also leading her away from gymnastics.

But as she said Saturday: “I’m here.”

“The biggest thing is I was able to work gymnastics around my diving schedule,” Purwins said. “I had friends asking me to come out for gymnastics … So I was like ‘OK.’ Now, I’m just going out and trying to have fun. ”

Purwins was more than OK on Saturday, winning the vault with a mark of 9.475 and edging out teammate, freshman Shea McGee, for the all-around title, 37.825-37.675. Alyssa Shibata made it a Camas sweep of the top three spots at 36.95.

“Those three were just so close with those scores,” Willson said. “Any meet, any one of them can step up and perform big.”

Purwins wasn’t sure Saturday would be her time to step up, having missed the past week of practice with an injury.

“I hurt my back, which has been an issue with me in gymnastics,” she said. “Not practicing, it was difficult to say how I would perform today. I hadn’t attempted a vault in two weeks.”

McGee posted victories on the bars (9.3) and floor exercise (9.8).

“I think the thing about our team is we just support each other so well,” McGee said. “We’re encouraging each other, pushing each other to get better.”

Union’s Mac Ridgway captured a district title on the beam with a 9.75. Ridgway and teammate Logan Nelson claimed the two individual all-around berths to state in two weeks in Tacoma.

With their point total Saturday, a talented top three and a wealth of depth, the Papermakers will be a contender for the 4A state title.

“I’m just so fortunate to have the girls we have,” Willson said. “We’ve got 16 girls who can do the all-around. That makes it hard for me to pick just six for each event every week.”

Purwins said: “We can get better. I feel I could have been stronger on the bars, and I think Shea wishes she could have done better on the vault. There’s definitely room to score even higher.”