There was a walking boot and crutches. The boot to protect Kayla Porter’s foot, the crutches so she could get to her events inside the Tacoma Dome for the state gymnastics championships.
Porter says she would do it again.
Especially if it were this year, her final season for the Auburn Mountainview High School gymnastics team, before she directs her focus solely toward cheerleading and getting onto a college cheer team.
And that would be especially so this year because in her two trips to state, she finished 0.075 points shy of a 3A/2A/1A all-around title as a sophomore, then tied for fourth in the all-around chase last year (even with the foot injury).
So don’t expect any boot or crutchesto keep her from chasing that elusive state title.
“But, hopefully, I won’t have to worry about that,” Porter laughed.
Jayme Hofstetter was a spectator at that state meet last year, but she’s known Porter. WatchingPorter grind through the two-day state championships with the foot injury suffered earlier that week was quite unsurprising, Hofstetter said.
“It was like almost expected from her,” said Hofstetter, who returned this year as AMV’s co-gymnastics coach. “She just has this incredible competitiveness.
“I’ve watched her the past couple of years and you can see it in her face — she has this stone-cold, tough-lady face. That’s her gym face.”
It was Porter’s competitiveness that led to the injury.
She was cheerleading in a district playoff boys basketball game between Auburn Mountainview and Wilson.
“There was this kid who thought he could tumble better than me, some guy from the other school,” Porter said. “Then I did it and I landed it and I was like, ‘Try to beat that.’
“And then I literally could not walk. Landed on it, turned around to look at his face, and then I limped off.”
Porter said her competitiveness comes from her father, Wayne, who was an athlete at Auburn High, and her mother, Tiffany, who grew up in ballet. She has two younger sisters, Brittany and Jade, who appear to be following in her tumbling footsteps.
Porter’s intensity is easily misinterpreted.
She quit competing in club gymnastics this year because she was burned out. The love of the sport she first picked up at 6 years old was beginning to fade.
She said she’s had a feeling of separation from the rest of her teammates — that by Porter regularly finishing in first place she was overshadowing them.
It’s part of the dichotomy of an individual sport disguised as a team sport. Especially for a gymnast such as Porter, who was used to the individual atmosphere of her club programs.
“That made me feel bad,” said Porter, who won state titles in the uneven bars and the balance beam last year. “I enjoyed getting in first and I wasn’t going to not give my best every night. But I always felt like I didn’t want them to think I was being rude or stealing the spotlight.”
And when her teammates weren’t meeting her expectations, Porter said she lost it.
“We were nearing the postseason and I felt like there were girls just standing around and I was like, ‘You guys need to work. This is not OK,’ ” Porter said. “But I wasn’t the captain and I was overstepping my boundaries.”
She said she apologized after the season finished.
And she said she has grown through her experiences. Porter wasn’t sure if she would be named captain this year, but she was.
“I just don’t let things get to me as much as I used to,” Porter said. “I’ve grown to be like, ‘It’s OK not to be perfect.’ My attitude is completely different and a majority of the time everybody wants to be here. I feel comfortable walking up to them and saying, ‘Hey, we need to get to work.’ And they don’t get mad. They understand that we all have the same goal and want to go to state this year.
“Even just with my own abilities. I’m realizing that I’m not 90 pounds and 4-foot-8 like I used to be.”
Porter is not as invincible as she used to be. To go with the foot injury before state last year, she had a recent bone contusion in her foot that she’s recovering from, and she’s fractured her back three times, she said.
Hofstetter saw the same thing in her daughter, Natalie, when she coached her at Auburn Mountainview in 2010. The Lions won the 3A/2A/1A state team title that year.
Hofstetter coached AMV from 2005-12 before she retired, but has since returned.
“(Porter has) grown so much. She used to be so intense that it was a turn-off for people,” Hofstetter said. “I think she walked in the door and said, ‘I’m going to win the all-around championship.’ I started talking to her about like what is going to happen if she does not get that, and what’s realistic for a kid who used to be a level-10 extraordinaire who now isn’t able to work out like she used to.
“My daughter is so similar to Kayla. She got sick of club and she came here, and I told her the same thing — ‘Let’s be realistic. Let’s have fun.’ And she still loves the sport now, and that’s what I want for Kayla.”
Co-coach Michele Mayberry, who was a judge at the state championships watching Porter two years ago, saw much of that as well.
“She has an attitude and she’s pretty intense and people misinterpret that pretty quick,” Mayberry said. “But now she’s having more fun. You can be in club gymnastics for so long that you don’t realize that this should be fun.”
Don’t confuse that for Porter not wanting to win. She very much does.
But she’s planning to enjoy it, too.
“Before, I would probably agree that winning was all I cared about and nothing else,” Porter said. “Club isn’t really a team sport. High school is. If my teammates are struggling, they are the first people I want to help. I think before they saw me as the girl who wants to win.
“I want to win, don’t get me wrong. My goal is to win state, but do it while having fun. I don’t think I’d want to do it with any other group of girls. That is for sure. They make it fun.”