Before vaulting to Vanderbilt University, Caleigh Lofstead is looking forward to one more spin on the floor, bars and beam with her best friends in Camas.
The longtime VEGA gymnast has become a natural pole vaulter for the Papermakers. She captured the state championship with a meet record height of 12 feet, 7 inches.
Lofstead attributes her success in track and field to gymnastics, and the years of training she’s received from coaches Carol Willson and Zdravko Stoianov. Forever thankful for their time and encouragement, she is going to give her all for these mentors one more time.
“I’m excited about where the next four years of vaulting will take me,” Lofstead said. “This could be my last year competing in gymnastics. I would like to go to state again, and make my coaches proud. I have nothing left to prove, I just want to enjoy experiencing everything with these girls.”
Lofstead and Emily Karkanen share a special bond through years of gymnastics together.
“Caleigh has always been by my side,” Karkanen said. “I wish her the best of luck in college. I’m going to miss her as a teammate.”
Camas has gotten off to a strong start in the gym. The Papermakers scored 156.2 points to defeat Battle Ground, Mountain View and Prairie in the first meet of the season. Sophomore Jacqueline Purwins won the bars event and earned first place in the all-around competition. Freshman Joy Marsh finished in first place on the beam and third place in the all-around.
Camas racked up 163.9 points to rise above Evergreen and Heritage Saturday, at VEGA. Purwins placed first on the floor (9.4), beam (9.25) and bars (8.6) to win the all-around with 35.35 points. She also took second place on the vault (8.1).
“It’s a good start after not doing gym for a year,” Purwins said. “As the season goes on, you start getting your skills back and you get better.”
Lofstead earned second place all-around with 33.65 points. She finished second on the floor (9.35), beam (8.6) and the vault (8.3), and third on the bars (7.4). Karkanen took third place all-around with 32.85 points. She won the vault (8.4), secured second on the bars (7.9) and fifth on the beam (7.8). Freshman Madison Martin finished in fifth place all-around with 30.7 points. She snagged third on the vault (8.2) and the beam (8.2).
“I hope we can learn from these first two meets and keep growing in our skills,” Karkanen said. “We just have to try our hardest and think positive. No matter what happens, just get back up and have a smile on your face.”
The Papermakers get their first look at league rival Union Saturday, during the Winterfest Invitational, at Naydenov Gymnastics Center, in Vancouver.
Columbia River, Evergreen, Skyview and Ridgefield compete in the first session at 9 a.m. Battle Ground, Camas, Fort Vancouver, Prairie and Union clash in the second sesssion at noon.
Camas and Union go head-to-head Saturday, Jan. 9, at VEGA. Events begin at 2 p.m. Columbia River, a powerhouse from the 3A Greater St. Helens League, is also scheduled to be at that meet.
On top of winning the league and district titles, the Papermakers would like to generate their best team score at the regional meet in hopes of sending all of their gymnasts to state for the first time in school history.
“Getting to state is always the goal. It’s definitely the hardest goal to achieve,” Purwins said. “Our team is very supportive. We all thrive off that energy.”
Watching the younger gymnasts already making an impact on this team takes Lofstead back to her first year with the program.
“I was a freshman once, and had no idea what was going on. I’m glad I can be a leader for them,” she said. “Thinking that was four years ago is amazing. It goes by so fast. I just want to cherish every moment.”