Britni Atwell had to find gym time wherever, whenever it was available.

For much of a six-year stretch, she coached herself, doing anything for gymnastics.

“It’s more than just a sport. It’s everything,” said Atwell, a senior from Heritage. “Without it, I don’t know where I’d be today.”


Rest of All-Region team

Brooke Atwell, jr., Heritage: Placed eighth on vault at 4A state meet.

Jessica Curley, sr., Union: Placed eighth on beam at 4A state meet.

Jazmin Harris, sr., Union: Placed seventh on vault at 4A state meet.

Shaylan Hawthorne, sr., Columbia River: 11th on vault at 3A state; 3A GSHL gymnast of year.

Suren Kanchanavaleerat, sr., Union: Placed sixth on bars at 4A state meet.

Nicole Moss, so., Heritage: 4A bars state champion; placed 3rd on vault and beam at state.

At the high school level, Atwell will leave Heritage as the most decorated gymnast in Southwest Washington history, with nine state championships in her four years. Last month, she won the prestigious all-around title at the Class 4A state meet. She was the easy choice for The Columbian’s All-Region gymnast of the year.

“It’s still a shock,” Atwell said. “When people congratulate me, it still affects me like the day it happened. It’s a big deal.”

The next day, she became a four-time state champion on both the vault and floor exercise. No one in the 45-year history of the event had ever won four consecutive individual event titles.

“Not only did I do it once — something that had never been done before — but I did it twice,” she said. “It was a-MAY-zing.”

That is the Heritage gymnastics way of saying “amazing.”

Atwell began gymnastics at the age of 2. It can be an expensive sport, and her grandmother Phylis Bacon helped pay for the training. But when Bacon died in 2006, and the family’s budget did not have room for gymnastics, Atwell was a gymnast without a full-time gym.

She did have a lot of support, though. She worked out at Naydenov when she was allowed, kept working on her skills.

Last summer, Northwest Gymnastics Training Center in Gresham, Ore., gave her a scholarship, despite the fact that Atwell would not compete for NGTC during high school season — a rarity for the club sport.

“They knew high school was more of a priority for me. They accepted that,” Atwell said. “They wanted their younger girls to see what gymnastics had done for me. And if you want it, if you put everything on the line, it can come to you.”

Atwell never gave up on her pursuit. It resulted in nine state titles in her Heritage gymnastics career.

BRITNI ATWELL, Heritage High School

Season highlights

  • Atwell was already one of the most decorated high school gymnasts in Southwest Washington history. Then she dominated her senior year at the Class 4A state championships.
  • Atwell won the all-around title on the Friday at state, qualifying for all four individual event finals for Saturday.
  • She won the vault and floor exercise state titles, each for the fourth consecutive year. No gymnast had ever won four titles in the same event.
  • She concluded her career with nine state championships.

More about Britni

  • Plays the viola.
  • Favorite movie: “Tangled” by Disney. “It reminds me of wanting something so bad and going out to get it no matter how much trouble you might get into on the way.”
  • Favorite subject: Science. “Always different things you can do with it.”

Next year and beyond

She is not sure if she will be going to college in the fall. She plans to keep training and hopes to one day attend Seattle Pacific and compete, even if she must wait a year. She wants to study criminology.

“I’m proud of keeping my floor and vault titles. Making history for Southwest Washington was just icing on the yummy, delicious cake.”

Britni Atwell, Heritage gymnasts

Written by Paul Valencia for The Columbian