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Camas gymnasts prepare to defend state title

Team breaks school’s highest-ever point total once again

Camas gymnast Grace Alonzo thrills the home crowd with a high altitude move during the floor excercise at the meet before the postseason.

Washougal gymnast Katie Stevens performs on the beam under the watchful eye of coach Carol Willson. Stevens is one of two Washougal gymnasts who train with the Camas team. Stevens will represent Washougal at the state 2a tournament.

Camas High senior Madison Martin entertains the crowd at Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy (VEGA) in Camas during the floor exercise in the last meet of the regular season, held Saturday, Jan. 26.

One season after winning the first-ever state championship in gymnastics for Camas High School, the Papermakers are looking to add to the school’s impressive trophy case.

On Saturday, Jan. 26, Camas continued its winning ways by wrapping up another winning regular season during a meet with Evergreen, Mountain View and Washougal.

Camas gymnasts swept every event, including vault, bars, beam, floor and overall.

The sweep was accomplished without Peyton Cody and Shea McGee, two of the top gymnasts on the team, who missed the event with minor injuries, but said they will be ready for the postseason.

The next stop for Camas on the road to state is the district meet, which will be held at Northpointe Gymnastics in Vancouver on Feb. 9.

Papermakers top last year’s score

The week prior, on Jan. 19 the reigning state champs topped their all-time high score, which earned them a state title in 2018.

The gymnasts broke the point record during the annual Winterfest meet at Naydenov Gymnastics in Vancouver, on Jan. 19.

“Last year, at state, we had a 181.2 and this last weekend we had a 181.8,” said Camas head gymnastics coach Carol Willson.

The championship team from last season lost only one member to graduation in Jacqueline Purwins.

This year’s team has displayed even more depth than the school’s first-ever state championship team, helped by the addition of freshman Peyton Cody, who is already among the top gymnasts on the team.

Another bonus this year is that coach Willson has more athletes to draw from, since 40 girls turned out for the team at the beginning of the 2018-19 season — twice the number of girls from the year before.

The coach said winning a state championship has made a difference when it comes to turnout, but the program’s phenomenal growth has also created a bit of a challenge for the coaching staff.

“It’s a beautiful place to be, but it’s coaching seven days a week, so each of our athletes can get a few practices in,” Willson said.

Senior leadership gels with young talent

Seniors and co-captains Joy Marsh and Madison Martin bring the team leadership and energy. Marsh is among the leaders in all events, and Martin is extremely strong on the beam. Sophomores Alyssa Shibata — who won state on the bars in 2018 — Shea McGee and Lili Ford also are among the leading gymnasts on the team, but the Papermakers’ roster runs deep.

Now, coach Willson and her staff will have the difficult task of selecting 16 out of 40 gymnasts to represent Camas at the state meet, Feb 21 through Feb. 23, at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. State rules limit teams to 16 athletes.

The Papermakers hope to again defeat longtime gymnastics powerhouse Woodinville at state. However, this season there is a new school that promises to make a run for the coveted overall title. North Creek, a school near Woodinville, and is loaded with many gymnasts who used to compete for Woodinville.

“I think it’s going to be a three-way run-off between us, Woodinville and North Creek,” Willson said. “I’m so excited as we head into the postseason.”

The epic battle to keep the championship in Camas begins at the district meet in Vancouver on Feb. 9.