OGC’s strong showing ‘for Katie’

While success at state competitions is usually all about the person that achieved it, this was different for the Olympic Gymnastics Center.

Competing at the Level 7 state championships last Saturday at Auburn Mountainview High School, OGC finished sixth as a team, with 13-year-old Tara Black winning the all-around title. But it wasn’t for themselves. It was for Katie Haggard.

Haggard, a former OGC gymnast, died of MRSA pneumonia two weeks ago at the age of 13.

“Kids can handle things amazingly well,” OGC coach Greg Mutchler said. “And they did it for Katie.”

Preparing for state in the face of tragedy wasn’t easy for the gym.

“That was just a killer for everybody emotionally,” Mutchler said. “You’re just not the same for a while.”

But the team was inspired by the memories of Haggard, from the pink shirts bearing elephants (Haggard’s favorite animal) to the team’s post-meet snack.

“You always think, ‘Why do these things happen to good people?’” Mutchler said. “(Her memory) just kept the focus positive.”

Black won every event for her age range but the bars, scoring a 37.6 all-around score to win the title.

“Tara Black won everything but the bars,” Mutchler said. “She rocked.”

Fellow 13-year-olds Lucy Dougall (ninth in floor; eighth all-around) and Katie Bartela (third in vault; fifth in floor) also had strong showings.

In the 12-year-old group, Mara Ong was second all-around, scoring 37.07 points while winning the floor and placing second in both the vault and bar.

“Her routine looks special,” Mutchler said of Ong’s winning floor routine. “She just looks good when she does it.”

Kayleigh Johnson scored 34.95 points all-around.

Fo the 10-and-under age range, Mary Jane Thompson placed third on the vault while Taylor Finney was 10th. Finney also took eighth in the bars and finished with a 36.075 all-around score despite falling a couple times.

Hannah Everman had a 36.425 all-around score in the division.

OGC was sixth with 112.3 points, just 1.675 off winners Auburn. Grace (of Tacoma) was second with 113.375, Seattle’s Gym East was third with 113.15, Puyallup’s PSG was fourth with 113.075 and the fifth-place finishers were Northwest Gymnastics of Spokane with 112.325.

“All the top teams were pretty close together,” Mutchler said, adding that OGC was second as a team in the floor and third in the vault. “It was really good.”

Following the meet, a parent recreated a treat concocted by Haggard herself — a combination of flavored potato chips and marshmellow cream.

“At the end of the meet, one of the parents had put it together,” Mutchler said. “Everyone got to taste Katie’s invention.”

The showing helped the team remember their fallen friend. Monday, the gym held their own kind of service to remember Haggard, whose Silverdale funeral service was last Thursday. Monday included sharing silly memories, watching a video of Katie and simply reflecting on her life.

“We talked more than we definitely would have been able to,” Mutchler said. “It’s been very exhausting. It’s hard just to get going again.”

He said the state meet also included an outpouring of support for Haggard and her family.

“Other coaches even started crying when you’d just tell them about it,” he said.

The OGC Level 5 team, two-time defending small-team state champs, get ready to compete at sectionals April 13 en route to state in early May.

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