DeBellis, injured Hess win gymnastics titles

Hess overcomes torn ACL to win on bars

By Paul Valencia, Columbian High School Sports Reporter

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TACOMA — Jordan Hess’ score lit up the scoreboard Saturday afternoon, and she knew she was in first place in the bars competition at the Class 3A state gymnastics meet.

Her teammate, Jennifer DeBellis, fell into second place.

And all of the Columbia River Chieftains were thrilled about it.

“I didn’t really care,” DeBellis said. “She deserved it. After my routine, I was hoping I would finish second, and she would finish first.”

Well, nice gymnasts can finish first, too. DeBellis ended up winning the floor exercise, while Hess held on for an unlikely championship on the bars — giving the Chieftains half of the 3A meet’s individual event champions.

Hess competed with a torn ACL in her left knee, an injury she suffered last week. Normally an all-around competitor, Hess could only perform in one event this week.

She qualified for the finals Friday, sticking her landing. Then in the finals, she one-upped herself, scoring that 9.45. She had to wait on 11 more finalists, but by the end of the competition, that 9.45 still soared above the rest.

“It just meant so much to me that I could do this, even though I was so hurt,” Hess said. “No one expected it. I, for sure, did not expect it. It was just amazing.”

While she has scored higher this season on the bars, Hess said this was her finest performance.

“The judges up here are a lot harder. I consider it the best, for sure,” she said.

Especially considering the circumstances.

“Me and Jordan have been teammates for 12 years,” DeBellis said, noting their time together in club sports, too. “Just seeing her accomplish that feat was the best thing ever.”

DeBellis, a junior, knows what it’s like to be best, too. She won the floor exercise as a freshman. After taking second last year, she is back on top.

“This is great. That was really my goal for this year,” she said.

DeBellis scored a 9.7, then had to wait for 11 other competitors.

It was a memorable weekend for her and her teammates.

“The team did great,” DeBellis said of the third-place finish for the Chieftains in Friday’s team category. “And I felt I did great.”

DeBellis also tied for sixth on the vault, giving her three medals.

Camas senior Amy Siebenthaler ended up tying for second place on the floor, just missing DeBellis with a 9.675. Siebenthaler completed her career by placing at state in every season.

Fort Vancouver’s Chelsea Zimmerman became the first Trapper to advance to finals in more than 15 years. She just missed a medal, taking ninth on the floor exercise.

The 3A athletes joined the 4A athletes from Clark County in quite an impressive weekend. Britni Atwell of Heritage won the 4A vault and floor titles, and Union’s Sami Jo Martin claimed the bars title.

“Greater St. Helens League domination,” DeBellis said. “I like it.”