Friendly competition continues for gymnasts

Clark County quintet of Division I gymnasts like seeing each other

By Kurt Zimmer, Columbian Sports Reporter

Published:

 

Moving on to different collegiate programs is not enough to break the bonds of teammates and friends.

Two gymnasts from Vancouver are now competing for intrastate rival programs.

Alyssa Click is a junior at Southern Utah University and the reigning Western Athletic Conference champion on uneven bars. KayCee Gassaway is a sophomore at Brigham Young University, a Mountain West Conference Scholar Athlete award winner last year.

Three others from Clark County — Kalliah McCartney of Vancouver, Dallas Smith of Heisson and Kayla Wonderly of La Center — are beginning their collegiate years as freshmen together at Sacramento State University.

photoAlyssa Click, Southern Utah University.

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photoKalliah McCartney, Sacramento State University

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photoKayla Wonderly, Sacramento State University

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photoDallas Smith, Sacramento State University.

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Click, McCartney and Wonderly competed for Multnomah Athletic Club of Portland, while Gassaway and Smith competed for Naydenov Gymnastics of Vancouver. But Click, McCartney and Wonderly were at Naydenov for years before joining MAC, and the four youngest are all graduates of CAM High School in Battle Ground.

Gassaway, who graduated early from high school, is actually the youngest of the group.

Elite competitive gymnastics is a tight enough world that five top gymnasts from the same county almost have to be at least acquainted.

"We all know each other," Skyview High School graduate Click said, particularly the four who are within a couple months of the same age. "They know each other a lot better. I do know them pretty well, so we say hi when I see them. I know on some teams, girls aren't allowed to talk to other gymnasts even if they know them, but we say hi and let them know that they're doing good."

As in-state rivals, Click's Thunderbirds and Gassaway's Cougars face each other three times this season, including Saturday at BYU in Provo. Sacramento State and Southern Utah are WAC rivals, and the Thunderbirds and Hornets met earlier this month in Sacramento.

McCartney won the all-around at that meet, and Click could hardly not notice.

"She's doing really well," Click said of McCartney. "When we competed against them in Sacramento, she won the all-around and she looked really good. We're not supposed to watch the other team when we're competing, but she's an old teammate, so I was just like, 'Oh, I gotta watch.' She's doing so good, and I'm so happy for her."

After the meet is the time for the reunion.

"It's kind of one of those awkward things when you're competing against them as a rival, but at the same time, you're still teammates and you want to say hi," McCartney said. "So of course we'll say hi after the meet is done and go talk to her and talk to her parents and give her a hug and ask how they're doing. After the meet, it's fine. Before the meet, it's kind of like there's a separation and you have to keep it separate, but it's all good."

Sacramento State at BYU do not compete, but Gassaway hopes that changes.

"I really want to schedule a meet against them," she said. "I'm trying to convince my coach that we should have a meet against Sac State so I can see them."

Alyssa Click, Southern Utah

Off to a great start in her junior season, Click is now facing uncertainty because of a foot injury.

She was named WAC Gymnast of the Week after winning the all-around in a Jan. 20 home meet against BYU, a career-high 39.400. Three weeks later at San Jose State, she hurt her left foot during her floor exercise routine.

"I feel like I got off to a pretty good start. I'd never competed in all-around before, so that was really exciting, and the fact that I did really well. But I got injured two meets ago, so I haven't been doing too much lately. It's kind of slowed down. It's a bummer.

The injury was thought to be either a fractured sesamoid bone in the ball of her foot, or strain to the tissue in that area of the left foot. She was to undergo a bone scan Wednesday to determine the nature and severity of the injury.

"It's not good" in either case, Click said, but one is better than the other.

"If I don't have a fracture, I pretty much can go right back into it and just deal with the pain," she said Monday. "I'm pretty sure it's not a fracture, because it seems to be getting a lot better. I'm hoping that I can come back on bars first pretty soon, then get to (balance) beam and hopefully get to floor by (the WAC Championship on March 24 at Utah State). Hopefully at WACs, I can do what I do and score pretty well again. We'll see, I guess."

KayCee Gassaway, Brigham Young

photoKayCee Gassaway, Brigham Young

The injury bug has also bitten Gassaway, whose ankle was hurt during her vault in a Jan. 27 meet against Utah.

She had been competing in both bars and vault, but is now concentrating on bars. She said she hopes to be back in vault by the end of the season.

"It's going all right," she said of her season. "Right now, I'm just doing bars because in our meet against the University of Utah, I kind of sprained my ankle on vault. Right now, I'm just doing bars and trying to get better."

As with Click, injury has hampered a season of continuing improvement as a gymnast.

"Being injured doesn't really help, but I think so," Gassaway said of her improvement since last season. "It may not be showing right now because I can't vault, but we still have the second half of the season. Hopefully I can get back on vault and see that improvement."

(Note: No action photo of KayCee Gassaway was available.)

Kalliah McCartney, Sacramento State

Confident that she would make an impact in her first season of collegiate gymnastics, McCartney had to strengthen her bars routine to be the all-around gymnast her coaches were looking for.

"I knew coming in to the season that I would be contributing a lot — that I was one of the stronger gymnasts," she said. "My coach told me he wanted me to be an all-around gymnast. … He said, 'You're definitely going to be an all-arounder, because we need one.' So far, I'm the only all-arounder. I was like, 'OK. That's a lot of pressure on my part.' Going into the season, I knew that I could make a contribution, but I didn't know how much of a contribution it would be. That was a little bit of a surprise, but I'm happy that I can contribute to the team."

She is considered a contender for WAC Freshman of the Year, an honor that went to Click in 2010.

"I wasn't really going for that, but that would be great," McCartney said. "Every meet, I try to do my best and hit the routines I know I can. Hopefully, that will get me some spotlight. That would be great to have that. Freshman of the Year for the WAC would be really awesome."

Dallas Smith, Sacramento State

As a walk-on, Smith was unsure what to expect in her first collegiate season. In just a few weeks, she has become a two-event starter for the Hornets in floor and beam.

"I just tried to work really hard during preseason. I started out in an exhibition on the floor in our first meet, so my score didn't count for our team. I just started doing better and showing that I could get those scores they're looking for — that 9.7 and above. So that's how I got into that lineup. Beam was kind of the same thing. I just worked hard in practice, and the beam team kind of struggled early on in the season. They kind of took a chance on me and put me into a meet, and it ended up going well. I got the kind of scores they're looking for for the team score."

Kayla Wonderly, Sacramento State

Wonderly has competed on beam in every meet of the season, battling a nagging injury of her own.

"I hurt my elbow about a year ago, and it' something that just doesn't get better," she said. "I've had to learn to deal with it, I guess."

Her four best scores of the season have been in the last four meets, with her top score in the Hornets' most recent competition.

"I'm only doing beam, but I feel like it's gone really well so far," she said. "I hit all my routines, and I just love my team and the atmosphere. It's so much more team-oriented. Everything you do is for the team, where in club it was like you doing your personal best."