Kiya Bjorge and Alexis Lawrence were the big fish in a fairly small pond in late February, when the pair cleaned up at the Class 3A state gymnastics championships in Tacoma.
Lawrence, a 17-year-old Kamiakin junior won state titles in the All-Around and vault, while Bjorge, a 17-year-old Southridge junior, earned individual crowns in floor and bars while finishing second to Lawrence in the All-Around.
But in the world of competitive gymnastics, there’s always a larger pond, and with much bigger fish in it.
Bjorge and Lawrence, a pair of Level 10 gymnasts, will accompany Jaimee Fields, another Level 10 gymnast from Richland, at the Junior Olympic Level 10 National Championships beginning Friday in Jackson, Miss.
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Lawrence is the only one of the three who has competed at the event, having qualified in 2012 and 2013. Representing All-American Gymnastics in Kennewick, she finished fourth at the All-Around competition at the Region 2 championships in Helena, Mont., in early April to earn a return trip.
Bjorge will make her first trip to Level 10 nationals after making three trips to Western Nationals as a Level 9 gymnast. She said the difference between the two meets is vast, starting with the fact that this meet includes all 50 states as opposed to just the western states.
She holds no illusions about winning in Jackson but still hopes to earn valuable experience for future competitions.
“I just want to go there and have fun,” Bjorge said. “There are some very talented girls going down there. This year, I just want to go in and hit my routines and learn what to do for next year.”
Brett Garland, who coaches Bjorge and Fields at Garland’s Gym in Kennewick, says Bjorge is a very polished, well-rounded gymnast who won’t have a problem competing against the best of the best. He said her best event is probably beam, but gushed about her dancing skills on floor.
“She’s a solid all-arounder,” Garland said.
Fields, a 13-year-old Carmichael Middle School student, won the All-Around title at the Region 2 championships against what coach Garland said was a “real competitive group.” Fields won the bars competition and took second in beam and floor for a total of 36.825 points to earn the AA crown.
Fields, in her first year as a Level 10, could be the most likely of the three to make a big splash at nationals.
“The girls call her like a freak. She can do just about anything and competes really well,” Garland said. “Her skills are through the roof, and she’s got the skill to compete with the top kids in the country. It should be eye opening for her.”
Garland added that Fields brings a mature approach to competitions, which will help her stay within herself in Jackson.
“She’s not real up or down, and that’s what you want,” Garland said. “You want to be up for a meet, but you have to be controlled.”
Fields is eagerly awaiting the event as well as her first trip to Mississippi. Mostly, she’s looking forward to the chance to improve on her performance at regionals and make an impression on the many college recruiters who will be there.
“I’m not really nervous. I’m excited because it’s the last competition (of the season),” Fields said. “I’m ready for it. I can do better. I’m still proud of what I did (at regionals).”
Bjorge and Lawrence will compete in the Senior B competition, which begins at 5 p.m. Friday. Fields will compete in the Junior A competition, which starts at 11:30 a.m. Friday. All three competitors will get 21⁄2 hours of practice time today during the Region 2 training session.
Garland said competitors at nationals are well advised to bring their top routines and even add a few new tricks, if available.
Garland said his gymnasts are no exception. He said Bjorge is working on perfecting a new bar routine, and Fields is adding a full twist to her vault.
“The difference between first and 25th is one point in the All-Around. The judges have to separate kids by whatever they can,” Garland said. “You have to compete to the level of the competition. You start at 10, and then you have to earn five-tenths (worth) of bonus points.”