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Friday, June 2, 2023
June 2, 2023

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Senior salute: Washougal’s Shaela Ausmus glad she vaulted back into sport for senior year

High schools: Tim Martinez

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

Shaela Ausmus saw her senior year at Washougal High School as a last chance.

A gymnast since age 3, Ausmus trained and competed for Naydenov Gymnastics until her freshman year of high school.

She was diagnosed the scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. And by her freshman year, the scoliosis combined with the rigors of gymnastics became too much for Ausmus.

“As I was getting more involved in gymnastics, it was taking a toll on my body,” Ausmus said. “My scoliosis just finally got to the point where it was worth it more to just take care of my body than worry about gymnastics.”

During her sophomore year, she thought track and field might be a suitable replacement for her athletic passions.

“I kind of tried out track because all I ever had done growing up was gymnastics,” Ausmus said. “I originally went to do sprinting. But my coaches said that gymnasts tend to be really good in the pole vault. So I ended up trying and liking it.”

Her junior year, Ausmus started as a full-time Running Start student at Clark College. So she decided to simply focus on her studies.

But her senior year brought the urge to compete again.

“It was my senior year and it was my last chance to do gymnastics again,” she said. “And high school gymnastics is more about fun than trying to earn a college scholarship (like when she competed in club). So I just took that opportunity to do it again.”

She managed her back issues during the high school gymnastics season, resting when she needed.

“I just had to listen to my body and what it was telling me,” Ausmus said.

Ausmus would go on to be selected the all-around gymnast of the year for the 3A/2A Greater St. Helens League and qualified for the state meet.

While she qualified for the state finals in the vault and bars with top-6 marks, Ausmus did not earn a medal in either event.

“It was just really cool to make it to the final day of competition at state, or even just the state meet in general,” she said. “Vault and bars were actually my favorite events. … But I kind of felt that competing two days in a row – because we qualified on Thursday night then work up the next morning and competed in the finals – my back was really sore. So I couldn’t do the best I could, but I was still happy to go there and do it.”

After gymnastics, she was looking forward to giving track another try. Her gymnastics teammate at Washougal, Katie Stevens, was a state placer in the pole vault in 2019.

“I was looking forward to doing track again and seeing what I could accomplish,” Ausmus said. “It was heartbreaking when it all got canceled.”

Ausmus graduated from Washougal High School on June 6 as the school held a virtual commencement. She plans to head back to Clark College this fall to finish up her associate’s degree before seeking out a four-year university where she hopes to study criminology or psychology.

“It was really cool,” she said of the virtual commencement. “It was different, like everything these days. But it also kind of felt like I haven’t finished yet, being in Running Start and still pursuing my AA. I think they are talking about doing an in-person ceremony later this summer when things improve. So hopefully that will happen.”

Ausmus said she’s glad she had her athletic experience representing Washougal High, however limited it was.

“Competing for the high school gymnastics team created such an uplifting, positive aspect to gymnastics for me,” she said. “And I’ll miss the sport and the teammates I made, especially with Washougal and Camas teams working out together and representing both communities. That was cool.”

 Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4538, tim.martinez@columbian.com or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.