SK'a Bates on "Y" title team

It’s because of gymnastics that Kelli Bates has become all too familiar with things like aches and pains, ice and ibuprofen.

But it’s also because of gymnastics, more specifically her involvement with the Grace Gymnastics Center in Lakewood, that Bates is also all too familiar with national championships.

And the South Kitsap senior-to-be added a third national title to her resume last month as she and her teammates won the YMCA National Gymnastics Championship held June 30 through July 3 in Menomonie, Wisc.

In fact, this was the seventh national title the Grace team has won in the past eight years, some coming with such past stars as Courtney Stump from Silverdale and Amanda Hall from Bremerton.

“We have a pretty good team,” Kelli said. “People tend to not like us very much – they don’t like to see us coming. But there’s some pretty good competition there.”

The team finished with a two-day combined score of 223.450 to win the meet. Cameron of Santee, Calif., was second at 221.500, while Mission Valley of San Diego took third at 220.900.

Individually, Bates placed fourth in the all-around competition, her highest finish in three national title meets at the highest level. That finish also got her named to the YMCA All-American team for the third time.

The YMCA national meet differs from other meets in that there are three consecutive days of competition with just the top performers advancing each day.

Bates was one of 120 championship-level gymnasts to go on the first day and made it to the round of 80 for the second day. The individual and team scores are then tallied to determine champions, while the top 10 in each age group move on to the third day.

Bates’ scores on the first day included an 8.95 on the vault, a 9.15 on the uneven bars, an 8.775 on balance beam and 9.575 on the floor exercise.

On the second day, Bates posted scores of 9.075 on vault, 9.025 on bars, 9.725 on beam and 9.725 on floor.

The final day of competition saw Bates finish fifth on bars, 10th on beam and third on the floor.

She finished fourth in the all-around as a level nine competitor as two level 10s placed ahead of her.

And as her scores show, Bates excels on the beam and the floor, her two favorite events.

“Floor is really fun because you can just show off,” she said. “You have your routine that is personal to you. You work hard on it and then go to the meet and show it off and have fun with it — get the crowd involved in it if you can.

“Beam is fun because you have to be crazy to do a lot of things on it,” Bates said. “When you get up there and do it, you’re like ‘Yeah, I’m cool,’ because you can do all these flips. It’s just really fun.”

Bates has been having that kind of fun ever since she got started. She said it was her parents that got her first involved in gymnastics but it was not from their past experiences.

“She was a high-energy kid,” Kelli’s mom Stacie Bates said. “So we thought we had to harness all this energy and do something really positive and productive with it.”

So Kelli Bates found herself tumbling away at age 3 and has stuck with it ever since, progressing through each age group until she caught on with Grace Gymnastics a few years ago, passing up chances to participate in private clubs.

“There are pros and cons to private clubs versus the Y,” Stacie Bates said. And the quality of the program is so much different at Grace. It’s a matter of how they treat the gymnasts – gymnastics can be a very tough sport.”

Stacie Bates said some of the coaches at the private clubs can seem like or worse than football coaches as far as intensity and yelling and she didn’t want Kelli to deal with that.

And that has been working out well. Although South doesn’t have a program, Bates said it’s a year-round thing with little time for breaks.

She makes the hour-and-half roundtrip drive from Port Orchard to Lakewood almost daily to stay in top form.

Oddly, she said she has no Olympic dreams or aspirations.

First of all, at 17 years of age, she is really too old to start thinking that way. And to do that, she said, would turn into an all-day, everyday grind that she doesn’tt want in her life at this point.

She is more focused on regional competitions and is hoping to turn her gymnastic skills into a college scholarship. Her first choice is Sacramento State in California, where she said she plans to study nutrition.

And as Bates gears up for her senior year, books and gymnastics will rule until spring, when she will take a break from the sports just like she did last year, by running track.

“It’s good to be part of another team, kind of get my mind off of gymnastics,” she said. “It was kind of fun to get away and try something new.”


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