TACOMA — Britni Atwell clutched her prize in her hand, squeezing hard, almost as if she were testing it, to see if it was real.
Then the senior from Heritage tried to come up with the best way to describe her joy at the Class 4A state high school gymnastics championships.
“This, this, I worked for four years for this,” Atwell said, holding back tears. “To get it my senior year, I don’t know, I don’t know.”
Atwell knows she is the Class 4A state all-around champion, the top honor in her sport.
“It’s everything I’ve worked for to this moment. Everything is right here in a blue ribbon and medal.”
Atwell shined in all four disciplines Friday morning — qualifying for each individual event final — to post a total of 37.375, easily outdistancing Candace Ho of Newport, who scored 36.700.
“I did it!” she said. “I came in wanting to do my best, and I did.”
It is the seventh state title of Atwell’s career. She is the three-time defending champion on the vault and three-time defending champion on the floor exercise. Saturday, she will have a chance to win those events again and also has a chance to earn titles on the balance beam and uneven bars.
She also had plenty of support from her Heritage teammates.
Nicole Moss, a sophomore, finished third in the all-around.
“I felt I improved a lot this year,” said Moss, who was sixth in the all-around in 2012. “I just feel a lot better this year.”
Atwell said she hopes Moss wins the all-around next year.
“She’s my second sister, besides my real sister,” Britni said. “She’s beautiful. Me and my best friend were on the podium. I love her with all my heart.”
That real sister of Britni’s? Yeah, she had a good day, too.
Brooke Atwell qualified for finals on the vault.
This day will belong to the older sister.
Britni started on the balance beam.
“I was really, really nervous because every time I’ve done beam I’ve fallen on it at state,” Atwell said. “I spent my time keeping cool and keeping my breath.”
She scored a 9.15, the fifth-best score of the meet.
Next was floor, one of the two events she has owned in her career.
“I always love floor,” she said.
She scored a 9.675, the second-best of the day.
Then came vault, the other Atwell-dominated event.
“I took a little step on the landing, but I did a really good vault. I was excited about that,” she said.
She earned a 9.60, the top score of the day.
The uneven bars have always presented a problem for her, but not this time.
“It’s my best routine ever on the bars,” she said of her 8.95, the sixth-best of the day.
After more hugs from coaches and fans, Atwell remembered where she was heading after Friday’s competition. She screamed again.
“I’m going to Taco Bell!,” she said. “That’s my reward, going to Taco Bell.”
The top eight scores from Friday advance to the 4A individual event finals for Saturday.
Half of the vault field will be comprised of Clark County gymnasts. Both Atwells and Moss made the field, along with Union’s Jazmin Harris.
Suren Kanchanavaleerat of Union had the best qualifying score on the uneven bars at 9.40. Moss and Britni Atwell will join her in that final.
Moss had the top score on the balance beam at 9.4. She will be joined by Britni Atwell and Union’s Jessica Curley in the final.
Britni Atwell was the lone Clark County qualifier on the floor exercise.
All scores from Friday are wiped out and all finalists start fresh for Saturday’s competition.
Emerald Ridge won the team title with 174.050 points. Woodinville was second at 173.475. Clark County did not have a team in the competition.
Class 4A state gymnastics championships
At Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall
Team scores: Emerald Ridge 174.050, Woodinville 173.475, Newport 170.125, Thomas Jefferson 165.925.
All-Around champion: Britni Atwell, Heritage.
All-Around top three: Britni Atwell, Heritage, 37.375, Candace Ho, Newport, 36.700, Nicole Moss, Heritage, 36.675.
Individual events (Top scorer, plus Clark County qualifiers):
Beam — 1, Nicole Moss (Heritage) 9.40; 5, Britni Atwell (Heritage) 9.15; 8t, Jessica Curley (Union) 9.050.
Bars — 1, Suren Kanchanavaleerat (Union) 9.40; 2, Nicole Moss (Heritage) 9.275; 6, Britni Atwell (Heritage) 8.95.
Vault — 1, Britni Atwell (Heritage) 9.6; 4, Brooke Atwell (Heritage) 9.475; 6, Jazmin Harris (Union) 9.325; 8, Nicole Moss (Heritage) 9.25.
Floor — 1, Izzy Erdem (Central Valley) 9.75; 2, Britni Atwell (Heritage) 9.675.