Kiya Bjorge is familiar with the pain of a foot injury that forced her to miss her sophomore season of high school gymnastics.
So familiar, in fact, that the injury has become a part of the Southridge junior’s routine. It’s an extra bone in her foot that causes her tendons to flare up.
“It’s a constant pain. I push through it so I can compete,” said Bjorge, who won three individual titles — the All-Around, the floor exercise and vault — at the 2012 Class 1A/2A/3A gymnastics championships in Tacoma. “Some days it hurts more than others. Once I landed pretty short on vault. The pain was probably an 8 (on a scale of 10).”
After missing the entire 2012-13 season, Bjorge will return to the Tacoma Dome on Friday in an attempt to reclaim her titles.
“Going into the meet I’m just going to have fun and do the skills I know I can,” Bjorge said. “I hope I can take first.”
Bjorge, a level 10 gymnast at Garland’s Gymnastics in Kennewick, is back on track, having captured the Mid-Columbia Conference district championship two weeks ago with an All-Around score of 37.2 and won the Class 3A regional All-Around in Spokane last Saturday with a score of 37.75. She proved her versatility, too, winning the individual beam title at districts and the bars title at regionals.
Her latest efforts may be enough to make the west side tremble at the thought of Bjorge returning to state. “I’m sure they’ve been watching the results,” said Kiya’s mother and Southridge coach Heather Bjorge. “She has done very well. She’s got a good chance (to win back her title).”
Bjorge, who will be joined by Alaine Pier, isn’t the only one interested in a state title.
The Kamiakin Braves, who won the Class 2A/3A team crown in 2011 and missed another championship by less than a point last season, may have their best team yet in terms of talent.
“If I had this team last year, we wouldn’t have taken second,” Braves coach Sarah Garrett said. “I say this almost every year, but this is the best team I’ve ever had here.”
Garrett pointed to seniors Danielle Brandon and Kelsey Jaquish as the backbone of this year’s team, but says the rest of her lineup has the ability to carry on Kamiakin’s strong gymnastics tradition. The Braves have competed at state five of the last seven seasons, and Brandon has qualified for state in the beam in each of her four seasons.
Brandon won an individual beam title as a freshman, took fourth as a sophomore and tied for third last season. She is confident that she’ll qualify one last time for the individual finals in her best event.
“I try not to be too confident. I’m confident, but I want to stay humble,” said Brandon, who isn’t the only Braves’ gymnast with an individual state title — Jaquish won the vault title last year.
Alexis Lawrence — a junior at Tri-Cities Prep competing for Kamiakin — made a strong showing at regionals, finishing second to Bjorge in the All-Around just .25 hundredths of a point off the lead. Lawrence, a third-year Level 10 gymnast, also earned individual titles on floor exercise and vault.
Ultimately, talent is what will lift a team over the top at state, but Garrett said that team support is important when it comes to getting great individual performances.
“It’s all about teammates cheering you on and showing they have just as much confidence in you as themselves,” Garrett said. “I don’t think you can win a state championship if the girls aren’t 100 percent all pulling for each other. That means they have to put aside the fact that their teammate might beat them.”
Gymnastics state qualifiers
Class 2A/3A (9)
Kamiakin (6) — Danielle Brandon, Rachel Cook, Christy Craigo, Kelsey Jaquish, Alexis Lawrence, Saige Polanik, Ellie Winstead.
Southridge (2) — Kiya Bjorge, Alaine Pier.
Hanford (1) — Kayla Lasater.