Heritage gymnast is beaming with hope

Atwell is working hard to become all-around gymnast

By Paul Valencia, Columbian High School Sports Reporter








Those words come from gymnast Britni Atwell’s coach.

Atwell, a junior from Heritage, smiles, nods her head, confirms. All true.

“I’ll be a hyper person all my life,” she said. “My hyperness makes me ready to try something new.”

Atwell makes it clear just how much she loves being in the moment, be it at a state championship meet or a regular-season practice. She knows she is one of the best in Washington — she has four state titles in two years — yet she also is thrilled when a less-experienced teammate overcomes an obstacle.

“I’m really enthusiastic about everyone who wants to try this sport,” Atwell said. “If they understand the basics, all the bigger skills will become that much easier. Everyone has the potential to be the best person they can be. If they want to do it, they’ll achieve it. If they have faith in themselves, they’ll achieve.”

Just like that, it is easy to see why Atwell is a coach’s best friend. When the best gymnast on the team is also the one with perfect attendance at practice, always motivated, always upbeat, well, that just make the job easier for a coach.

“Gymnastics is pretty much what she lives for,” Heritage coach Rachel Tamayo said. “When her teammates see how enthusiastic she is, it drives them to do better.”

Atwell won Class 4A state championships on the vault and the floor exercise as a freshman. Last year, she duplicated those feats. So naturally, last week, she was motivating herself to spend more time practicing the uneven bars and the balance beam.

She wants to go to state as an all-around competitor this year, excelling in all four events. She’s working on a skill on the uneven bars to perform for regionals and, hopefully, state. If she sticks it, Atwell believes she will win state.

The balance beam has been frustrating. She fell at state as a freshman and did not place, then fell again at regionals last year and failed to advance.

“This year, I’m working even harder on my (beam) routine,” she said.

She believes in herself, and she believes in her coaches. If her coaches tell her she can learn something new, she will make the attempt. That is not always an easy transition in a sport that can punish a body.

“You have to overcome your fears in this sport,” Tamayo said. “But honestly, I don’t know if Britni has any fears.”

Not when she is in her element, in the gym.

“There cannot be a fear factor in gymnastics,” Atwell said. “If you have fear, you have blockage.”

Tamayo said: “She’s always trying to take it to the next level. She wants to have the extra ‘Wow’ factor that nobody else has.”

That can be the difference between championships and simply placing at state. All of the gymnasts who make it to individual event finals are talented; the best get an extra look from the judges.

“I think the ‘Wow’ factor is saved for the biggest moments,” Atwell said. “It’s a really big skill you don’t see very often that makes the crowd go ‘Wow!’ I like to show people I’m not just an average gymnast.

“But I also know when to try them and how to try them. My ‘Wow’ factors aren’t thrown in at the last minute. They’re clean. That way, people say, ‘Oh, that was good.’”

Atwell started in the sport when she was 2, following her older brother Brandon and older sister Breaunna.

“I just kept doing it,” she said.

She hopes to compete in college, and she already coaches younger gymnasts.

“Everything in my life is related to gymnastics. Everything the sport teaches you, you can use it in anything in your life,” Atwell said, noting commitment, determination, and will. “This sport gives you so much confidence. It teaches you pride, too. And it’s family.”

No wonder she looks so happy every time she walks into a training facility or a meet.

Britni Atwell, hyper and enthusiastic, is right where she belongs.

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