Southridge freshman Kiya Bjorge is the first girl from the Tri-Cities to take the all-around state title.
Written by Heidi Fryer
Few people have the chance to make history in their lives, and rarely before they are even old enough to drive. Kiya Bjorge, a freshman at Southridge High School in Kennewick, WA, became the first female gymnast from Tri-Cities to capture the all-around title at the 3A state gymnastics championships on Feb. 17–18. The only other gymnast from Tri-Cities to do this was male—her club coach, Brett Garland, in 1978. “We could start a club,” jokes Garland. It would be an exclusive club, to say the least.
Bjorge’s road to the state title began when she was two years old. “I was taking dance in the upstairs room of the [gymnastics] gym, and I looked down and said, ‘I want to do that.’” The 15-year-old has now competed in gymnastics for three different area clubs, plus Southridge High School, and is currently a Level 9 at Garland’s Gymnastics. All this club experience means is that she is used to stressful situations. “[At state], I wasn’t really that nervous. I’ve been in big meets before, so I just relaxed and had fun.” This attitude proved to be successful, as Bjorge also won the floor and vault, and placed third on beam and fifth on bars.
For the past four months, Bjorge has been juggling club and school practices, which combine to keep her in the gym more than 30 hours each week. As a freshman, she is taking a fully loaded honors schedule, and finished first semester with a 3.6 GPA. “She’s a really hard worker,” says her mom, Heather Bjorge, who is also the Southridge assistant gymnastics coach and teaches her daughter in honors algebra. “Her grades are really important to her.”
Balancing grades and practices was not easy for Bjorge, but she enjoyed competing with a new group of athletes and making friends with her high school teammates. “The team really came together,” Bjorge says, which is evident in their increasing team scores. This year the Southridge gymnasts improved each week, ending the season with their highest team score (148.65) in over seven years at the regional championships in Spokane.
What’s next for the youngest star of the team? “I want to compete in college and maybe get a scholarship,” says Bjorge. As for this year, her high school season may be over, but she is just beginning her club season, which will culminate with Western Nationals in Boise in May. “I love it,” Bjorge says of the sport. “My teammates are like my family, and it’s cool to do big tricks that other people can’t do.”