Sports

Morton's gymnastics return helps drive Auburn Mountainview

Auburn Mountainview
Auburn Mountainview's Lexi Morton soars above the balance beam at the South Puget Sound League/Narrows/Olympic/West Cascade Conference 3A sub-district at Kentwood this past Saturday. In addition to winning the beam with a 9.425, Morton also captured the all-around title with a 35.25 score. The Lions were also first in the team competition.
— image credit: Rachel Ciampi/Reporter

Lexi Morton was stellar on the gymnastics floor two years ago.

That season Morton, just a sophomore, finished second in the individual all-around at the state 3A gymnastics meet.

Her junior year was not so good.

While competing for the Auburn Mountainview volleyball squad in October 2008, Morton suffered an ACL injury that sidelined her for a year.

“I landed on another girl when I was blocking,” Morton said. “I drifted like I’m not supposed to.”

The injury, suffered in a match against Sumner, forced Morton to miss not only the rest of the fall volleyball season, but also the winter gymnastics and spring track and field seasons.

Last Saturday, however, Morton served notice that she was back, winning the South Puget Sound League 3A gymnastics sub-district all-around title with a 35.250.

“It was a good meet but I wasn’t sure it was going to be good,” Morton said. “It started kind of rocky, though, because I missed my vault. This was the first time (this year) I’ve competed at vault, so I was a little nervous about that. But even with the fall it ended up going all right, and the team did very well also.”

According to Morton, the nervousness came from her rustiness on the routines, rather than apprehension with her surgically repaired knee.

“I’ve had a full recovery. I’ve been training with all that stuff for a year in the offseason, so I wasn’t worried about that,” Morton said. “Right after the injury, I started doing strengthening stuff before the surgery. Then right after the nerve block wore off, I started doing physical therapy. I had a difficult therapy for about a year. … It was tedious, it took awhile.”

Although the road back was arduous, Morton is not one to shy away from a little work.

Since she was just 8 years old, Morton has competed in the sport, starting with the Auburn Gymnastics Center squad.

“I did that for about eight years until I started high school, then I tried out for the (Lions),” she said. “I was just a little bit burned out with the club scene. It’s very intense, and it was just such a huge part of my life. I wanted the high school experience, so I picked up other sports because I knew I didn’t want to do gymnastics in college.”

When she wasn’t practicing gymnastics, Morton kept busy with the Auburn Mountainview volleyball and track and field squads.

She then began to prepare hard for her final gymnastics season with the Lions.

“I was really excited. It was hard to stay off the floor for a whole year,” she said. “With all the sports I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get back up to speed quickly. But I’ve actually been doing better. I’m doing personal records in everything. It’s been going really well.

“Gymnastics at first was just getting back to where I was before I got hurt,” Morton continued. “For me, it’s hard to take time off from gymnastics because I lose my skills real easily. So it was just getting slowly back to where I was a year and a half ago. That was my main goal.”

The repaired Morton admits she is a different gymnast.

“I’m not as powerful on floor as before, but I think my skills are a lot cleaner,” she said.

Morton added that although her best event was the beam, she enjoys the floor more because “you can’t fall off it.”

Morton also is well aware of her role as a team leader, and enjoys the camraderie.

Last season the Lions finished second as a team at the 3A meet.

But Morton says this year’s edition is even better.

“It’s just a matter of getting everybody to have a good day all on the same day. If we can do that, we’re going to take the title,” she said. “A lot of people have to improve. We’ve got four people competing in things that they didn’t last year.”

Following gymnastics, Morton plans to compete in track and field this spring, where she runs sprints and relays, as well as the long jump.

She isn’t sure where she will wind up after graduating.

“I don’t know where I’m going yet, but I’m hoping to get at least a partial scholarship for track to help pay for college,” Morton said. “I know I want to go to a four-year university. … I plan on majoring in secondary education and literature and teach creative writing.”

The West Central District III meet begins at 10:15 a.m. Saturday at Auburn Mountainview.

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