The moment came as Saturday’s competition concluded. Senior captain Ellie Mann approached Woodinville coach Kathi Koch. The two spoke intensely and then embraced. Both ladies started crying. The look on Mann’s face was of overwhelm.
“When you give so much to a sport and finish it, a lot of emotions go over you,” Mann said. “I’ve done this sport for pretty much my whole life. I’ve been competing for over ten years. I’m hitting that part where I’m like, `Okay we’re done! It’s time for a new [chapter of my life].’ That’s where the tears came from. I was relieved to be done. Just to get this year’s team here to State was really big. Kathi and I were talking about that.”
As it happened, the Camas Papermakers repeated as State Champs. Woodinville finished in second place for the second straight year, after winning four straight state titles.
“I’m just so thrilled with how the girls performed the entire weekend,” Koch said. “Placing second was phenomenal. They came together as a team and pulled it off. I’m super proud of their academic accomplishments too -- they were Academic State Champs this year.”
Woodinville had three gymnasts compete in the individual events last Saturday. Mann finished fifth on beam, while Teana Heys finished seventh on beam and tied for seventh on floor. They reached the podium in these events. Sophomore Lexi Bernhoft got her first taste of State by competing on beam.
Heys was asked for her favorite moment. “Sticking my floor routine was really nice,” Heys said. “And having my team cheer me on and do my dance with me was really fun.”
Said Bernhoft: “It was amazing. I had such a great time. It was fun and I’m proud of the girls and me as well. I felt the nerves, but I put the nerves out of the way and did the best I could.”
Coach Koch cited Heys as a happy kid and hard worker. She was also proud of how hard Bernhoft worked to qualify for State.
But what distinguished this year’s team from others?
“In other years it was easy for us to get to State,” Koch said. “But this year it was a fight. We didn’t have the depth we’ve had in the past. Ellie was a phenomenal leader. She really rallied the troops. It was her dream and goal to get back to State. She was a driving force every day in the gym. I attribute a lot of our success to her leadership. It was a phenomenal thing to witness. She has been one of the greatest leaders on this team I’ve ever seen. She is a great person.”
“Kathi is always one to look out for the individual,” Ellie Mann explained. “She always gets right in your face. She goes `You can do this, you’ve got this. Or, you NEED to do this, we don’t have time for this.’ She is always very personal with you. No matter what your skill level, she always specializes her coaching to you. And I will miss the importance she made you feel as a person and how amid all the crazy chaos she can focus and help you become the best person and gymnast you can be. She has definitely shaped a lot of these girls, and me included, into the people we are. I’m going to miss her and [assistant Shannon Kelly] as well.
“This was a very sweet way to end my senior season,” Mann said.