High School Sports

From hospital to hero, Kentridge senior soars to state gymnastics title despite recent elbow surgery

Mount Rainier’s Naleia Gomes competes in the uneven bars event at the gymnastics state competition on Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
Mount Rainier’s Naleia Gomes competes in the uneven bars event at the gymnastics state competition on Friday at the Tacoma Dome. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Lexi McKnight was in a hospital nine months ago, her elbow being surgically repaired for the second time. She was advised that it would take a year to fully recover.

But McKnight had never before competed in high school gymnastics. And the senior wasn’t going to miss this.

McKnight took the Tacoma Dome by storm on Friday as the Kentridge High School standout won the 4A all-around title at the state high school gymnastics championships in the Dome’s Exhibition Hall, scoring 38.05 points to edge second-place Shea McGee of Camas (37.9) in the field of 163 gymnasts.

Camas won the 4A state team title, dethroning four-time reigning state champion Woodinville with 181.2 points to Woodinville’s 180.125, while Emerald Ridge, led by Kelly Richardson’s work on the uneven bars, placed fourth with 172.2 points.

But McKnight stole the show.

The all-around title combines the points from the bars, beam, floor exercise and vault and McKnight’s best work came on the floor, where she scored a 9.575 – tying for the fourth-highest score in that event with her sister, Lizzy McKnight – who finished 12th in the all-around placing with a score of 36.4.

She also tied for the best score in the vault at 9.55 with Auburn’s Ali Tate, who was coming off the 4A West Central District all-around title and two years ago won the 3A/2A/1A all-around championship before Auburn moved from 3A to 4A the following season.

McKnight also had the fourth-best score on the bars (9.55) of the day and the beam (9.375).

Her father, Brad McKnight, is a former6-foot-8 basketball player with San Jose State, Gonzaga and Pacific Lutheran University who graduated from Newport of Bellevue. He’s now an assistant coach with Kentridge’s boys basketball team.

His eldest daughter has been a natural in gymnastics, competing for Grace Gymnastics in Lakewood and earning a level 8 YMCA national championship, ultimately competing as a level 10 gymnast for Metropolitan Gymnastics in Kent after the McKnight family moved from Lakewood to Kent three years ago so they could compete at Metropolitan, Brad said. She plans to attend Seattle Pacific University next year.

But Lexi had Tommy John Surgery at Tacoma General on her left elbow to replace an ulnar ligament. It was her second surgery she’s had on the elbow.

But there she was last week placing fourth in the district championships. But she improved by almost three points to win Friday’s state all-around title, a year after Woodinville’s Alli McManus won with a score of 38.

Tate, the Auburn junior, finished in fourth place with a score of 37.55, while Mt. Rainier’s Naleia Gomes was eighth (37.05).

Emerald Ridge’s Kelly Richardson was 15th (35.6) and teammate Bailey Miller was 18th (35.375). Competition will resume Saturday with the individual-event championships.

White River High School had several gymnasts finish with great days on the floor, the beam, and all the other events in the 3A/2A/1A gymnastics state championships.

Erin McGinnes was the Hornets’ best performer as she came in 10th in the all-around competition on Thursday with a score of 35.375. She was just 0.125 points off from tying for ninth palce with Sarah Ellis of Columbia River.

McGinnes followed that with a standout performance Friday on the balance beam, placing second in the event championship with a score of 9.325, finishing just behind Sammamish’s Sydney Griswold (9.525).

McGinnes also placed 10th finisher in the floor exercise, scoring 9.350.

preps@thenewstribune.com

4A STATE ALL-AROUND CHAMPIONSHIPS

1

Lexi McKnight

Kentridge

38.050

2

Shea McGee

Camas

37.900

3

Jessica Harpel

Ferris

37.600

4

Ali Tate

Auburn

37.550

5

Alyssa Shibata

Camas

37.350

6

Zella Conley

Mead

37.200

7

Kylie Mosset

Woodinville

37.100

8

Naleia Gomes

Mt. Rainier

37.050

9

Ellie Mann

Woodinville

36.700

10T

Erin Clayton

North Creek

36.675

10T

Jacqueline Purwins

Camas

36.675

12

Lizzy McKnight

Kentridge

36.400

13

Carleigh Rendon

Newport

36.350

14

Mac Ridgway

Union

35.725

15

Kelly Richardson

Emerald Ridge

35.600

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