BELLEVUE – When Carol Willson was hired in 2014 to launch the Camas High School gymnastics program, the first season saw five gymnasts turn out.
Now as she heads into retirement, Willson leaves behind a program that’s a statewide powerhouse.
Led by all-around champion Madi Williams, Camas placed second at the WIAA Class 4A state championships on Friday for the second straight year.
Having won three consecutive state titles from 2018-20, few programs have been as consistently good as the Papermakers. Though Camas fell narrowly short of defending champ Woodinville on Friday, Willson lauded this year’s squad that will see her cap 50 years as a gymnast, judge and coach.
“It’s the perfect group to send me into retirement,” Willson said. “They’re wonderful young ladies, all of them. They’re up and coming. We’ve got a good coach in place for next year. They’re going to do a good job.”
Camas won three of four events at Sammamish High School and posted its highest team score of the year. But Woodinville, which was just a sliver behind Camas in the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise, won the vault handily while Camas was third.
That allowed Woodinville to win with a score of 180.400 ahead of Camas’ 179.575. Sumner placed third with 173.950 and North Creek fourth with 163.850.
On the floor exercise during the final rotation, Camas ended with a flurry. Hallie Kempf posted the event’s third-highest score of 9.525 as the final performer of the night. A few minutes before that, Williams scored the fifth-highest score of 9.500.
Williams said her team’s floor performances were not just to impress the judges but to salute their coach.
“We really wanted to do that for Carol,” Williams said. “We talked about that before floor, that we were doing it for our coaches who are retiring. We’re glad we got to send them out with the best performance we could give today.”
No individual was better than WIlliams across all four events. In her first full season of high school competition after mainly focusing on club gymnastics, the junior had an all-around score of 37.300. That was 0.100 points ahead of Woodinville’s Emily Brouwers.
In addition to finishing fifth on the floor exercise, Williams was fourth on the vault (9.250), fifth on the uneven bars (9.275) and third on the beam (9.275)
“She had the best meet she’s had,” Willson said of Williams. “She did everything. She was clean. She’s not just a good gymnast. She’s a high achiever in everything.”
When asked what a state all-around championship meant to her, Williams said the most important part was sharing the moment with her teammates.
“It’s been such a goal for so long, especially for our whole team,” She said. “So I’m really glad we all got to share the moment and have fun together today.”
The state meet will conclude Saturday with individual event finals, where Williams will be looking to add to her medal haul.
In addition to the floor exercise, Kempf will be a top contender for a beam title after finishing second Friday with 9.400. Teammate Cyenna McCluster was fifth with 9.200.
Their coach plans to soak it all in Saturday, at peace with her decision to step away.
“I feel good about going, but it’s kind of bittersweet,” Willson said. “I’ll just enjoy them, enjoy the girls and their accomplishments and how well they’ve done.”
WIAA STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Sammamish High School, Bellevue
Individual event finals
(Top three and locals)
T-1, Sadie McCune (North Thurston) 9.475; T-1, Berkley Gore (Shorecrest) 9.475; 3, Seema Borgmann (Sammamish) 9.400. Also: 7, Gretchen Lane (Prairie) 8.900.
1, Julia Carter (Enumclaw) 9.650; 2, Seema Borgmann (Sammamish) 9.550; 3, Dezlyn Lundquist (Mead) 9.375; Also: T-5, Gretchen Lane (Prairie) 9.200; 14, Reese Velansky (Washougal) 8.975.
1, Seema Borgmann (Sammamish) 9.550; 2, Emi Ellis (Lake Washington) 9.500; 3, Naomi Kildal (Ballard) 9.475.
1, Dezlyn Lundquist (Mead) 9.700; 2, Micah Laughary (Sammamish) 9.600; 3, Ava Enriquez (Shorewood) 9.550; Also: T-16 Gretchen Lane (Prairie) 9.100.
Team scores – Woodinville 180.400, Camas 179.575, Sumner 173.950, North Creek 163.850.
1, Madi Williams (Camas) 37.300; 2, Emily Brouwers (Woodinville) 37.200, 3, Jordan Begun (Redmond). Also: 7, Cyenna McCusker (Camas) 36.175; 12, Hallie Kempf 35.475; 18, Ava Pawlowski (Union) 33.200; 27, Kennedy Cody (Camas) 26.025; 28, Delaney Fiscu (Camas) 25.750; 38, Sneha Shanker (Camas) 18.225; 41, Carly Christ (Union) 17.700; 49, Cate Neill (Camas) 16.675; 53, Keira Yuthasastrakosol (Union) 15.925; 54, Laine Hendricks (Union) 15.900; 58, Ella Allum (Camas) 9.400; 71, Alliah Hubbard (Camas) 7.925.