It takes a special kind of athlete to go out every day and challenge gravity.
“In this sport,” said Karen McQuiston, who has coached the Capital High School gymnastics team since 1996, “you’re going to fall far more than you are going to land. You’re going to be sore. Your body’s going to be in pain. It’s the ones who pick themselves back up and stick with it that do well.”
Capital sophomore Keira Lathrop can attest to that, having been in gymnastics for 11 years. She wears the bumps and bruises that come with the sport’s daily grind almost as a black and blue badge of courage.
Gravity is particularly harsh on the beginners – they are routinely humbled by this force of nature.
All the tumbles and spills, however, had little effect on Lathrop’s love for the sport.
“I’ve just always enjoyed it,” Lathrop said. “I tried basketball and soccer when I was younger, but all I ever wanted to do was gymnastics.”
Over the years the falls have diminished and the bruises have dwindled, replaced by ribbons and medals.
Lathrop will look to add some more hardware to her trophy case when she competes at the state gymnastics championships Friday and Saturday at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.
“I think I’ve improved since last year, so hopefully I can finish in the top 10,” Lathrop said. “That’s the goal.”
Lathrop had a stellar showing at the state meet as a freshman last season, finishing 13th overall and 14th in the vault.
“I think she got a taste of it last year,” McQuiston said. “There’s some intimidation when you come in as a freshman. This year she’s much more focused and goal-oriented.”
Evidence of that can be found in the higher-level routines Lathrop has elected to pursue this season – something that should pay off at the state meet.
“It’s riskier,” Lathrop said about attempting more complicated moves, “but if you don’t try them you’re not going to do well at state.”
Lathrop, along with teammate Hannah Armitage, a three-time state participant, will begin the state meet at 1:55 p.m. Friday on the beam before competing in the floor event.
“The floor’s probably my favorite,” said Lathrop, who also competes year-round with Gymnastics Elite in Olympia. “At the state meet only one person is competing at a time. So everyone is watching you. I kind of like being out there in the spotlight. You only get one chance at it. There’s a lot of pressure, but I think it pushes me.”
Lathrop and Armitage will also compete in the bars and in the vault, where they will be joined by teammate Katelyn Johnson.
“Keira’s very dedicated and has naturally ability,” McQuiston said. “You put those two qualities together and it makes for a very talented athlete.”
When: Friday, Saturday
Where: Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall
Admission: $15 for adults, $11 for students and seniors (single-day); $23 for adults, $17 for students and seniors (tournament pass)
South Sound entrants
Capital: Keira Lathrop, all-around; Hannah Armitage, all-around; Katelyn Johnson, vault
North Thurston: Stephanie Hetzler, vault
River Ridge: Brielle Rasmussen, beam
Timberline: Alyssa Kooser, beam; Christa Jefferson, floor; Kourtney Bellarde, all-around