Camas gymnasts on road to glory

Team has highest score ever, eye on No. 1 spot at 2018 state competition

Alyssa Shibata

Madison Martin, CHS junior, (standing) talks to her head coach, Carol Willson, (right) before performing her floor routine at Northpointe Gymnastics on Friday, Jan. 12.

Jacquelin Purwins

Camas High School gymnastics coach Carol Willson chats with the gymnasts warming up to compete in bars during a meet at Northpointe on Friday, Jan. 12.

Shea McGee

Madison Martin

Joy Marsh

The Camas High School gymnastics team is earning the scores they need to start paving their route to the 4A state team competition this year, and they’re having as much fun as they can while doing it.

The team has earned 177.565 points so far this season.

Coach Carol Willson says that this is the team’s highest score ever, and since team points follow the team throughout the season they still have a chance to rack up even more points at meets on Saturday, Jan. 20 and Saturday, Jan. 27.

The 177 number is impressive, considering the fact that, at this time last year — the first time Camas qualified for the state competition — Camas had earned 162 points as a team.

At state last year, the team took second place with 175.425 points, just short of Woodinville, which scored 180.225.

Gymnasts Annika Affleck, Grace Alonzo, Kaitlyn Blair, Siena Brophy, Morgan Macintyre, Joy Marsh, Madison Martin, Shea McGee, Jacqueline Purwins, Alyssa Shibata and Lizzy Wing are likely to qualify for the state competition, Willson said.

Katie Stevens, a Washougal High School freshman who competes with Camas, also might qualify, Willson said. Camas should qualify as the one team from 4A, but Stevens has to qualify as an individual.

Freshmen Shibata and McGee are all around competitors — athletes who compete in bars, beam, floor and vault — and have really boosted the team’s scores this year, Willson said.

The two gymnasts compete in both club gymnastics and for CHS.

As a coach, Willson says she is always concerned about injuries when gymnasts are doing so much, but that Shibata and McGee are finding a good balance.

“Their attitudes are amazing, and they motivate all the other kids because they’re so positive and they do it all,” Willson said.

The two competitors, who consider themselves good friends, also serve as a kind of support system for the whole team, she adds.

“If one gets a nine then the other one wants a nine more. They feed off of each other and that builds everyone up,” Willson said.

Camas senior Purwins is the conditioning captain for the team. She said this year is all about the team, and their goal of getting to state and doing even better than they did last year.

“And, so, whether that’s getting more people to finals, or winning this year instead of getting second, we’re just wanting to get a little better with each year,” Purwins said.

McGee said she thinks the team provides a really good atmosphere to be around because they’re always pushing themselves to do their best and be better so they can be ready for state.

Camas junior Madison Martin said this year’s team is really energetic, and the new people who have joined have made it even better because they have all become close.

When Stevens, from Washougal, steps onto the floor, the group of Camas gymnasts can be heard cheering for “The Shoug.”

McGee said she enjoys competing because it gives her a chance to make new friends.

“Even though it might be competitive between everyone, you still have your friends to cheer you on, you still have your team there supporting you and making sure you’re doing your best,” McGee said.

Although last season was the first time Camas qualified for the state competition, Willson said the team should have always been a competitor.

“We always should have been up there, because teams that got up there weren’t scoring what we were scoring,” she said.

The Southwest Washington region used to compete against Woodinville during regionals, a team that consistently wins the state competition. That would knock Camas out of consideration for state. Last year, however, the qualifying process changed and regionals were taken away. Now, teams that qualify for the state competition come straight from districts, giving Camas an advantage.

Willson said she’s been following Woodinville’s scores throughout the season and that Camas has had higher scores many weeks, but that now the schools are neck and neck.

Woodinville has won the state championships for many years, Willson said. The team beat Camas last year by just five points, which gives Willson hope that Camas can go all the way to No. 1 this year, as long as her gymnasts remain in good health and have the right attitude.

“That’s partly my job and partly their job,” Willson said. “They have to have the ability in their minds to focus and do what they need to do, but their bodies need to stay healthy.”

The team focuses on promoting healthy ways to take care of their bodies, such as getting enough rest, nutrition and sleep.

Purwins has been challenged in previous seasons by injuries, including rotated and sprained ankles, a broken back and a dislocated elbow.

The recovery process is really long and frustrating, she said.

“Every day that you’re out of the gym, everything gets a little bit harder,” Purwins said. “But it is kind of good for your body to get a break sometimes.”

During practice, the gymnasts do a lot of stretching and conditioning, which includes cardiovascular exercises and strength training.

The life of a gymnast can be a busy one, but the Camas team is a really involved group, Willson said, adding that most of the girls also participate in other sports and have high grade point averages. Some are divers on the swim team. Others are cheerleaders and some are on the track team.

For Shibata, however, it’s gymnastics all the time, since she is on a club team as well as the CHS team, sometimes practicing for six hours a day.

McGee, who also is on a club team, said that she does all of her schoolwork in class so she’ll have time for gymnastics.

“I feel like as long as I get all my schoolwork done then I’ll be fine at gym,” McGee said.

Purwins, who has been on the Camas team for four years, said the busy lifestyle is worth it when she considers the new skills and challenges gymnastics provides.

“A meet is essentially seeing how confident you can be in yourself and if you actually know the skills, and after being on the team for four years, I know most of these girls, so it’s like we’re all on different teams, but really one team, which makes it different from club.”

Shibata agreed, saying she prefers a team atmosphere.

“I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s just like all these people are my family now,” she said.

Willson competed as a gymnast during her formative years. She has competed, coached and judged gymnastics. Five years ago, she decided to come back to Camas and coach the high school team, many of whom Willson had coached when they were still very young.

“(They were) four, five and six, and then they became young ladies. It was fun to see that full circle, and it’s the same with a lot of these kids (at CHS) — I’ve known them since they were really tiny,” Willson said.

The Camas team will compete with Union, Hudson’s Bay and Heritage at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 20, at Northpointe Gymnastics in Vancouver.