If they only gave out awards for spirit, strength and smiles, Tate Goff and Keara Callahan would have a nice collection of gold medals.
Even so, the two Bainbridge Island gymnasts saw three months of preparation pay off during the Special Olympics of Washington’s Fall Games.
Tate earned a special distinction at the recent Fall Games: She competed as the only Level 3 gymnast (Special Olympics’ highest level for gymnastics) in the state of Washington.
Bryan Peterson, who served as acting head coach for the Bainbridge girls at the Fall Meet and works in the gymnastics program for the Bainbridge Island Metro Parks & Rec District, said Tate was selected to compete for Team Washington at the 2018 USA Games this year. The games will be held in Seattle in July.
At the Fall Games, Tate competed in every event — bars, vault, balance beam and floor exercise — and won the gold in every event, plus the all-around competition.
Keara had a standout performance on the beam and earned a silver medal. She also won bronze medals in other events.
At a recent practice in the gymnastics gym at Bainbridge High, both gymnasts said they had a lot of fun at the Fall Games, and their love for the sport was as infectious as their enthusiasm.
For Tate, the big takeaway from her standout showing wasn’t her haul of medals. It was something else.
“Having fun, and my friend Keara was there,” she said.
Her favorite event is the floor exercise. “Because I like to dance,” Tate said.
Emma Chee, a Bainbridge High gymnast and senior at the school, has been helping to teach the two girls the sport of gymnastics for the past three years.
Chee, the girls unofficial head coach, said the pair were inspiring in their approach to the sport; both hard workers, who don’t complain.
“I think they have a really good attitude about it. And they are sassy at the same time,“ Chee said, prompting sheepish grins from Tate and Keara.
Keara competed at the Fall Games as a Level 1 gymnast.
It was her first-ever gymnastics competition.
Keara said she enjoyed every event, even the bars. “I think it’s fun,” she said.
Like Tate, she’s also following in the steps of an older sister who was a gymnast. Keara’s older sister Kathleen Callahan was a former Bainbridge Island Gymnastics Club gymnast, and she and flew back from Colorado to help chaperone the Fall Games and see her younger sister compete.
Kendra Aquiningoc, the girls’ official Special Olympics coach, said she’s seen in lot of progress from the pair during their gymnastics classes.
Aquiningoc said one of the great things about the experience has been the duo’s demeanor in the demanding sport.
“To see all smiles at the end of practice, even though they were really tired,” she said.