In gymnastics, the top individual prize is the all-around — the combined score of a gymnast’s performance on vault, uneven bars, beam and floor.
At the Class 4A state meet three years ago, Candace Ho of Newport, then a freshman, finished fourth in all-around. Two years ago she placed third. Last year, she was second.
See a trend? So, when team and all-around competitions conclude Friday on Day One of the state gymnastics meet at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall, will Ho finally stand on the podium’s top step?
“I’d like first place, but I don’t know,” Ho said with a laugh. “It’s just a pattern. We’re all just there to do our best. Win or lose, I know I’m going to give it my all. I’m just glad I’ll be competing with my team.”
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Saturday, Ho finished second in all-around with a score of 37.1 at her district meet in Woodinville, where her team edged Bothell by less than two points for second place (behind state favorite Woodinville). That earned Newport the last of two team berths to state. Which outcome made her happier?
“Finishing second in team,” Ho said with wide eyes, as if the answer should be self-evident. “This is my second family. We spend the school day together, then we spend three hours in practice together. There’s so much love here. I didn’t want to go to state alone (as an individual qualifier). I want to go with my sisters.”
Introduced to gymnastics as a child, Ho trained for four years (2004-08) with the high-achieving Hong Kong Gymnastics Association while her parents lived overseas. Back home she rose to a level-8 club gymnast until she was attracted to high-school gymnastics and its team-spirit vibe.
“Every time I’m done competing, my teammates come up and hug me and I feel their support,” she said. “It makes me really happy. I love them so much.”
At Friday’s state meet, Ho will contend for the 4A all-around crown chiefly against other club refugees: Woodinville sophomore Marisa Savage (a past level 8; she placed first at district last week with a 37.35) and Mead junior Jenna Schlosser (former level 9; she hit 35.575 last weekend at Mount Rainier).
“It’s a lot different than club,” Savage said Saturday after her win. “It’s super-energetic and not as serious. I love being surrounded by all my teammates.”
So does Ho, who has used the body control she learned in gymnastics to place fourth in pole vault at the past two 4A state track meets. She also plays piano, cello and speaks Cantonese.
“When I started here I was really, really shy,” she said. “I didn’t talk to anyone. But older girls on the team treated younger girls like their little sisters and helped them. I’ve tried to do the same. Being on this team makes me feel like I’m part of something special.”
• In 3A/2A competition, senior Olivia Bannerot of two-time team champion Enumclaw is on a trajectory similar to Ho’s. Bannerot, the 2013 individual champion on bars, placed fifth in all-around as a freshman in 2011, second in 2012 and fourth last year.
“I have no idea what the outcome for all-around will be this year,” said Bannerot, who also plays soccer and runs track for the Hornets. “I am just out there to do my best and enjoy my last season of gymnastics above all else.”
Bannerot will be challenged by Kiya Bjorge, a junior and a level-10 gymnast from Southridge in Kennewick. Bjorge topped Bannerot for the all-around title in 2012 but did not compete for her school last year.
• Enumclaw might face a battle in its bid to win a third straight 3A/2A team title. Kamiakin, which edged the Hornets for first place in 2011, scored a season-high 179.05 while winning a regional meet last Saturday in Spokane. Enumclaw posted a 172.375 while winning at Mount Rainier. The teams will finally compete in front of the same judges on Friday.
• Millie Andrilenas, a junior from Juanita who competes despite having no left hand, qualified individually for the second straight year on vault and floor. Andrilenas tied for eighth on floor and placed 10th on vault at her district meet.
Coach Annie Smith said Andrilenas broke out a new vault (front handspring-front tuck) for district and will use it again at state.