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Life back on balance

U-Hi senior Cady Markin won the all-around at the 3A state gymnastics tournament last weekend, a first for a Titan gymnast. She hadn’t competed at the high school level in gymnastics before this year, but had competed since age 5 at the club level. (J. Bart Rayniak)
U-Hi senior Cady Markin won the all-around at the 3A state gymnastics tournament last weekend, a first for a Titan gymnast. She hadn’t competed at the high school level in gymnastics before this year, but had competed since age 5 at the club level. (J. Bart Rayniak)

U-Hi’s Cady Markin’s return to gymnastics brought her local fame and a state title

Congratulations have come Cady Markin’s way all week, but she’s still not exactly sure what the big deal is all about.

Markin, a University High senior, captured the all-around title at last weekend’s State Class 3A/2A gymnastics tournament – becoming only the third gymnast from Eastern Washington to hold that title.

“People I don’t even know have been sending me congratulations,” Markin said. “In my art class, the teacher (Don Ressa) stopped everything and congratulated me and the wrestlers who placed first at state. Mr. (Ken) Van Sickle did an all-school announcement congratulating me – I was so embarrassed by it all!”

Not a bad accomplishment for a gymnast who retired from her sport after her junior year.

“I went back and looked it up,” U-Hi co-head coach Tracy Duncan said. “Katie Dinsmore from Lakeside won it in 2001 and 2002. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1972, when Laurie Bremer won it from Shadle Park.

“It’s never happened in Class 4A because the schools from the West Side are just so good. What I was most impressed by, aside from Cady winning the all-around, is that Kamiakin managed to win the team title – it’s the first time an Eastern Washington team has done that, too. They (Kamiakin) lost one of their best all-around kids before the meet and managed to hold it together. I made sure I congratulated them, too, because I have no idea how they did it – their coach did an amazing job getting her kids to stay focused and not panic when they lost one of their leaders.”

Markin scored her best marks of the season at the Class 3A regional meet. She then improved on those marks on the first night of the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome, capturing the all-around title and qualifying for all disciplines as an individual. The next day, she was even better, improving on her own all-around performance, just to prove she could do it.

“Well, that’s what you want to do – that’s why you compete,” she said.

Not that someone noticed at the Tacoma newspaper.

“The reporter from the paper there said that it was beginner’s luck that she won,” Duncan fumed. “That really bothered me because that’s about as far from what happened as you could get.

“Cady competed at the highest levels as a club gymnast. She’s done so well in tournaments much, much tougher than our high school state tournament. She’s competed in westerns and she’s finished in the top half at nationals. She’s about as far from a beginner as you get.”

Markin turned out for the school gymnastics team for the first time this season, but she’d been competing at the club level since she was 5, most of that time with Northwest Gymnastics coach Mike Armstrong. For 10 years, Markin worked with Armstrong four hours a day, six days a week, 12 months per year.

“I’ve spent more hours with Mike than I have with my own father, I think,” Markin said. “I’ve spent about half of my life in the gym. As long as I kept getting better I wanted to stay in the gym and it frustrated me when I wasn’t getting better.

“I decided that I wanted to concentrate on getting my grades up as much as I can my senior year and I was going to retire from gymnastics.”

The grades were great for the first semester – A’s – and Markin said she began to feel the pull of the gym.

“I kind of wanted to get back on the equipment again,” she explained. “So I turned out for the school team.”

High school gymnastics is different from what Markin was used to. In club gymnastics, she explained, it’s all about seeking perfection in your individual routines. It’s more demanding in terms of both time and discipline.

And yet competing on the school team offers its own rewards – rewards that took a little getting used to. Unlike club gymnastics, the school team is about camaraderie.

“When you’re a club gymnast, I don’t think you ever go as a group for a sleep-over at someone’s house,” Duncan explained. “It’s not broken down by age, it’s broken down by ability and that means there is an age range between girls.

“On the school team, it’s about stepping up and inspiring your teammates, and Cady did that. When her teammates saw her stepping up and competing the way she did, it made them want to do the same thing.”

“I loved having teammates,” Markin said. “(Team captain) Stacie (Davis), Kaleigh (Campbell) and Amy (House), we felt like leaders. Other team members would come up to us and ask us about how we do moves.”

As a first-year team member, there were some challenges for Markin, especially centered around vocabulary.

“That’s a much bigger deal than people think,” Duncan said. “(coach) Karen (Renner) and I would tell Cady to lift her leg during a particular move, for example, and she wouldn’t understand what we meant.

“Thankfully Mike (Armstrong) was a huge help. We would tell him what we wanted her to do and he would interpret. We’d tell him we wanted to her to lift her leg, he’d nod and say to her ‘Cady, tighten your quad muscle.’ ”

A longtime supporter of the U-Hi gymnastics programs, Armstrong even attended his first meet this season.

And of all the accolades this week, Markin said the one that meant the most to her came from her longtime club coach.

“I was super surprised,” she said. “I felt embarrassed to go to his gym after quitting and then doing high school gymnastics. He came up to me after and he said ‘good job,’ and that made my whole world go around.”

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