The Newport gymnastics team had three gymnasts competing at state, with senior Anna Bencke, junior Maddy Thompson and sophomore Bella Nilsen all competing on both days on Feb. 21-22 at Sammamish High School.
In the event finals, Bencke finished first on beam (9.600) and tied for first on vault (9.475) and Nilsen was fourth on vault (9.400) and seventh on bars (9.375). Bencke was also second in the all-around competition (37.825).
For the three Newport gymnasts competing at state, it was an opportunity to bond with teammates and see some familiar faces.
“Even though we didn’t get to bring our entire team here, Maddy and Anna are some of my closest friends so it was really cool to be able to do this with them,” Nilsen said. She also saw former club teammates competing for other schools.
“I get to see people I did club gymnastics with the last 10 years, so I get to reconnect with them and see how they’re doing,” Nilsen said.
Bencke said the atmosphere at the meet was very supportive and fun. She said everyone would cheer for each other, regardless of what team they were on.
“There are so many girls who are just so sweet to everyone,” Bencke said. “Everyone you meet says, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’ and they will start cheering for you.”
Bencke, who was dealing with a knee injury, opened the meet on vault. Before going down the vault runway, Bencke was telling herself that she only needed to get one vault. Bencke tied for first on vault with Puyallup’s Rylye Anderson, scoring a 9.475.
“It ended up fine and I ended up winning vault, so I guess that turned out OK,” Bencke said. “It was not feeling good, so I was glad that I got that out of the way safely and didn’t hurt myself.”
Nilsen also had a strong vault for the Knights, scoring a 9.400 and finishing fourth. Thompson didn’t land her vault during event finals, but that didn’t change the fact that vault was her favorite part of competing at state.
“This whole week was the first week I’ve been working on my Tsuk and I decided to throw it yesterday and I somehow made it to day two, which is a really big deal for me,” Thompson said. “I didn’t expect that at all.”
Thompson said the support that she has received from coaches and teammates gave her the confidence to perform her Tsuk.
“In the warm up room yesterday, I was doubting myself a lot,” Thompson said. “(Bella and Anna) were telling me that I could do it, so I decided to just go for it and it worked out pretty well.”
On bars, Nilsen scored a 9.375 to finish seventh during event finals, one spot ahead of Bencke (9.325). Nilsen said bars has always been her favorite event because it comes easier to her than other events.
“For me, my best event is bars, so just being able to compete bars at state on both days is really cool,” Nilsen said.
As a senior, Bencke wanted to get everything she could out of her final meet. On floor, she decided to throw a one-and-a-half twist at the end of her routine, finishing eighth with a 9.400.
“I kind of let myself have fun with it,” Bencke said. “I’ve competed it before, but it’s been maybe four years. I wanted to see if I can still do it, and I can apparently. It wasn’t amazing but it was fun to just try it.”
Bencke got to close out her high school gymnastics career on beam, her favorite event.
“I love beam,” Bencke said. “So last event, nothing on my mind except for beam, just get up there and smile.”
With a smile on her face, Bencke scored a 9.600 to finish first on beam.