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Originally published Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 7:13 PM

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Bars champ Hamilton smiles through the pain | Gymnastics

A limping Baylee Hamilton won the 4A bars for Mount Rainier, and Highline's Kristen Rodal took the 3A/2A beam with a sensational 9.7.

Special to The Seattle Times

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TACOMA — It was a nice way to bow out of her first and only season as a high school gymnast, even if she had to hobble a little while doing so.

Baylee Hamilton of Mount Rainier, who on Friday night won the Class 4A state all-around title, picked up another title on bars Saturday during the individual event finals at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.

Hamilton competed as a Level 10 club gymnast exclusively before last summer, when she pulled out due to nagging lower-back pain. Saturday, she limped noticeably after each of her three events.

"I've had back injuries for a long time, and usually after meets my back is pretty dead and worn out," the senior said, "so having another meet in less than 12 hours really killed me.

Hamilton smiled and shrugged.

"So I'm just in pain," she said with a small laugh, explaining that her limp had nothing to do with ankles or knees. "When my back is messed up, my legs are messed up, so everything hurts. But I've learned how to work with it.

"I actually did a lot better than I thought I was going to be able to do with my back, so I'm happy," she said. "I'm perfectly content with the results."

Hamilton posted a 9.625 on bars and missed joining a tie for first on floor by 0.025 of a point, finishing third with a 9.625. She was fourth on beam (9.1).

Another former club performer, Kristen Rodal of Highline, also made a good showing Saturday, winning the 3A/2A beam with a sensational 9.7 and finishing second on vault (9.675).

Rodal, a junior, competed at Level 10 in club but switched to her high school team this season "to try something new."

"It's been a really good experience," Rodal said of the switch. "I've really like it. I just wanted to have fun here, and I had an awesome time being part of a team."

She was pleased with her execution on beam.

"I stayed tight and focused," she said. "That was pretty much it."

Newport sophomore Candace Ho tied defending 4A floor champion Britni Atwell of Heritage (Vancouver) for the title in that event with a score of 9.65.

"I got a new skill this year, my double-full, and it's been difficult, but it's been getting better meet by meet," said Ho, who finished third in all-around Friday night. "It felt like I peaked with it today."

Atwell, a junior, won her third straight 4A vault title with a score of 9.65. Jazmin Harris of Union (Vancouver) won the 4A beam.


• Freshman Kiya Bjorge of Southridge (Kennewick) won the 3A/2A titles for floor (9.75) and vault (9.7). Senior Jennifer Debellis of Columbia River, the 2009 and 2011 floor champ, picked up this year's bars title (9.4).

• Freshman Emily Paratore, part of a Woodinville team that put up an impressive second-place performance during Friday's team competition, took second on 4A beam (9.25). Jennifer Fouch of Kentridge and Sam West of Beamer tied for second on vault (9.4). West took third on bars (9.2).

• Senior Ellie Jajewski of Holy Names placed second on 3A/2A beam. Enumclaw sophomore Olivia Bannerot took second on bars (9.2) and teammate Maddison Ward was fourth on floor (9.625). Katie Rock of Holy Names was fourth on bars (9.0).

Kim Fleming of Woodinville was named 4A coach of the year. Colleen Davis of Nathan Hale/Ingraham was 3A coach of the year. Jenny Genoway of Sammamish was 3A assistant of the year. Cindy Guy of Bainbridge was elected to the coaches hall of fame.

• Three Seattle-area gymnasts (Hamilton, Rodal and Ho) won individual titles this year. Last year, just one competitor from the Puget Sound region (Elizabeth Clemens of Puyallup's Emerald Ridge, on 4A beam) won.

The meets, so long dominated by Seattle-area schools, have had a more statewide flavor the past two years. On Friday Mead became the first Spokane-area school to win a WIAA-sponsored state meet. Last year Kamiakin became the first school east of the mountains to win a 3A/2A title.

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