Gymnastics: More state titles for Atwell, DeBellis

Union's Harris also claims state title on uneven bars

By Paul Valencia, Columbian High School Sports Reporter



TACOMA — Britni Atwell just might have created a new gymnastics move: The double-triple.

Atwell, a junior from Heritage, won her third consecutive title on the floor exercise at the Class 4A state gymnastics championships. Then she won her third consecutive title on the vault.

“It means a lot because it shows I can do it over and over again, and not just the one time,” Atwell said.

Of course, she could have said not just two times.

Atwell moved into Washington’s top five for most individual titles in a career with six.

Jennifer DeBellis of Columbia River also added to her state championship resume, taking home a title in the Class 3A uneven bars and a second-place finish at floor. She finished her career with three state titles — she won floor in 2009 and 2011.

And Union’s Jazmin Harris surprised herself with a state title on the 4A balance beam competition, making it three athletes from the Greater St. Helens leagues who claimed titles this season.

“GSHL gymnasts rock it every year,” DeBellis said. “So cool.”

Atwell was the sixth of eight competitors on the floor. She saw Candace Ho of Newport had posted a 9.650.

“I thought my floor was pretty good. I did some new tumbling passes this year. I performed it to the best of my ability,” Atwell said.

Then her score was posted: 9.65. Tied for first with two athletes remaining. When those two failed to surpass the mark, Atwell and Ho shared the title. (There are no tiebreakers in high school gymnastics.)

Atwell was the sixth competitor on the vault, as well. Sam West of Todd Beamer had posted a 9.4. Atwell then stuck the first of her two attempts for a 9.65.

“I was pretty confident in my vault. I’ve been pretty solid with it,” Atwell said.

As soon as she landed, she knew.

“Oh my gosh, I just did it,” she said.

Jennifer Fouch of Kentridge would get a 9.4 to tie for second, but this was Atwell’s title alone.

Atwell is looking forward to seeing her name in the record book next year at state, and she hopes to add to her six titles.

“It shows you can do it when it counts,” she said.

DeBellis leaves Columbia River as a champion again. Besides her individual success, she also won a team title with the Chieftains as a freshman. She helped River to a second-place finish in Friday’s team competition.

She won the 3A bars with a score of 9.4. Only four of the 16 competitors broke the 9.0 barrier.

“It’s super cool,” DeBellis said. “I’ve had a really bad mental block on bars all year. It was my biggest fear all season. I got over it just last week. It’s so satisfying to make it, after all that work and fear and stuff.”

DeBellis was one of the final athletes on the floor. Kira Bjorge of Southridge had posted a 9.75. DeBellis ended up with a 9.7. She said she could go through her routine to figure out where she could have picked up a few points here and there, but she wasn’t going to bother.

“I’m really happy with my last routine I’m ever going to do,” said DeBellis, who also excels in track and field and will be a pole vaulter at the University of Illinois. “It was a lot of fun.”

Harris had a simple goal for her event Saturday.

“Stay on the beam,” she said.

Yep, that was it. Don’t fall.

She did not, and then she scored a 9.425. Two competitors followed and did not surpass that number, giving the junior the title.

“I’ve never been a state champion in anything,” Harris said. “That’s cool.”

The 4A beam was early in the competition. Those keeping track knew she had the top score, but it was not official until the end of the meet. She was told she was in first.

“I didn’t believe it,” she said.Only when her name was called to the podium did she believe.

Columbia River freshman Nikki Dyer finished third in the floor exercise, giving Columbia River a 2-3 finish in the event. Dyer also earned a medal with a fifth-place finish on the balance beam.

Don't Do Stupid Stuff Mugs