High school gymnastics: Mountain View coaching legend to call it a career

Cristi Westcott holds up a page featuring just some of the many teams she has coached. Westcott is retiring after more than 40 years of high school gymnastics coaching, the last 40 with the Mountain View Thunder. Photo by Paul Valencia
Cristi Westcott holds up a page featuring just some of the many teams she has coached. Westcott is retiring after more than 40 years of high school gymnastics coaching, the last 40 with the Mountain View Thunder. Photo by Paul Valencia

Five years of coaching youth, two years at Prairie High School, and then 40 years at Mountain View, Cristi Westcott reflects on her gymnastics coaching career

Paul Valencia

In her very first meet as a brand new head coach, Cristi Westcott was ready to stand up for her gymnasts.

It was the 1982-83 season, and Westcott, then known as Cristi Evans, was frustrated with the scoring that the judges were giving her athletes.

She wasn’t going to stand by silently.

Not her style.

“Me, being barely 22 years old, I was not afraid to speak my mind,” Westcott recalled. “I remember approaching them.”

She might have thought she was just asking questions, but it came across as a little more aggressive.

“Boy, did I learn my lesson,” Westcott said. “You do not speak to judges that way. You do not represent your team that way. They put me in my place. I respect that.”

Oh, there is more to this story, too.

“I didn’t really know much about the rules of high school gymnastics and what moves were worth what,” Westcott said. “It was all new to me. I went by this handbook. Unbeknownst to me, it was a year old. Every year, the rules change. I thought my kids were doing the right things in the events.”

Nope. They weren’t. 


“One of the judges gave me the correct rulebook,” Westcott recalled. “From then on, I made sure I had the right rulebook every year.”

Every year since then, Westcott has been supporting her gymnasts, showing respect to judges, and helping young athletes become better and more confident.

“You fight for your kids. And that was my first lesson in representing my kids and being their biggest fan, but I had the wrong knowledge. I learned a big lesson there,” Westcott said. 

She can laugh about it now.

“The judges were like, ‘Who is this girl?’

“I learned very quickly.”

That was 42 years ago, when Westcott started coaching high school gymnastics for the Prairie Falcons. Two years later, she was hired at Mountain View. And, well, she is still at Mountain View, 40 years later.

On Saturday, the Thunder will compete in the district meet, Westcott’s final district competition. She is retiring after this season.

“It’s hitting me hard now,” Westcott said this week. “My emotions are all over the place. I don’t like to be the center of attention. It’s about the kids. I feel like I’m taking that away from them when they’re talking about me.”

After more than four decades in Southwest Washington, fighting for high school gymnastics, today’s athletes will likely understand that there is time to thank Cristi Westcott for all that she had done for the sport.

It has been quite a run.

Cristi was a gymnast for the Battle Ground Tigers, and while in high school, she started coaching tumbling to younger children. She graduated from Battle Ground in 1978.

She stuck with coaching youth, and then she got the opportunity to be the head coach at Prairie. Also at the time, she was working with younger athletes with Evergreen Community School. There, she caught the eye of Evergreen Public School coaches and administrators.

Mountain View’s athletes, at the time, were being coached by Evergreen High School’s coach. Mountain View wanted a coach of its own. Cristi met with the late Hap Hapala, then Mountain View’s athletic director.

“I was intimidated by him. He demanded being competitive,” Westcott recalled. 

She worried that if she didn’t have success in a hurry, she would not be asked to return.

Well, again, 40 years later, she is still the coach at Mountain View. Guess she found success.

Cristi Westcott was named Mountain View’s head coach for gymnastics in 1984. This is Westcott with this year’s Mountain View team. Westcott is retiring after this season. Photo courtesy Westcott
Cristi Westcott was named Mountain View’s head coach for gymnastics in 1984. This is Westcott with this year’s Mountain View team. Westcott is retiring after this season. Photo courtesy Westcott

The first year with the Thunder, Mountain View had one athlete qualify for state. The next year, it was two athletes.

Then, it was the whole team. The Thunder went to state as a squad for five consecutive seasons. During one long stretch, the Thunder won 87 consecutive regular season meets.

“And then, Columbia River took us down,” Westcott recalled. “They were it. Then everyone wanted to beat them.”
Still, Mountain View remained competitive. 

In fact, the Thunder have qualified at least one athlete to the state meet every year with Westcott as the head coach. 

Every year.

Interestingly, that streak could end this year. Not because she does not have quality athletes. In fact, she has two great gymnasts, she said. But it’s all about peaking at the right time. The district is loaded with several gymnasts who are equally talented. The best of the best Saturday at district will make it to state.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed and my toes crossed,” Westcott said. “As a coach, you know you’ve done your job, and now it’s up to them.”

While going to state is the ultimate goal for the gymnasts, Westcott said for a high school gymnastics coach, it is not all about the elite athletes. The state meet is often dominated by club or former club gymnastics. But the joy of coaching high school athletes comes from taking athletes with zero or little experience, and providing them an opportunity in the sport. 

“If you’ve never done gymnastics, that makes me want to be a better coach, and I’m going to make you a gymnast,” Westcott said.

Westcott has had those special moments every year of her career.

“You work with them, they blossom, and they’re fantastic,” Westcott said.

It is all about building an athlete’s confidence, too.

Years ago, there was an inexperienced gymnast on the team. She couldn’t even tumble. But she could dance. And she could jump.

“She did floor (exercise) and she got a standing ovation at one of the meets. She didn’t go to state, but her showmanship and her love for the sport literally changed people’s minds of who could do gymnastics,” Westcott said.

“That’s what makes me come back every year, because of those kids,” Westcott said.

Oh, don’t get her wrong. She admires the club and former club gymnasts who have come into her program and have shined with district titles and state placings. But there is something special about bringing a new person into the sport.

At Mountain View, the athletes, elite or otherwise, are people with a common goal, to become great teammates and mature as people. Westcott said her athletes, through the years, have been there for her as much as she has been there for them.

“These kids … they know when you, as a coach, are needing that positivity, or a hug,” Westcott said. “I don’t think I’d be where I am without being a gymnastics coach and getting to know these kids. They call me. I go to their baby showers. I go to their weddings. They are a part of my life. They are not a teen I saw for four years. They keep in contact with me.”

Which makes it difficult to leave the sport. Westcott said it took her five years to decide it was time to retire.

“That is the bittersweet part of it. This is the hard part,” Westcott said.

Her plan is to stay away from the sport for much of next season. A clean break, if you will.

“I want to go on my next journey,” Westcott said. 

She retired from her career in retail and design last year. Her husband Dan has been retired for two years. Cristi’s first child, Tiffani, lives at home with cerebral palsy. Cristi and Dan are her caregivers. And Tiffani loves to travel.

The Westcotts have seven other children, 14 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. Oh, and the family is spread out all over the United States. 

Cristi is going to hit the road.

“Just live life and enjoy it,” she said.

She will still be around. She said she will help any coach, via phone, next year. While the plan is not to be around much during the regular season, she said she intends to show up to the district meet, and then state next year. It is tradition for Hall of Fame members of the Washington State Gymnastics Coaches Association to meet at state. Westcott was inducted in 2009.

From the 1970s as a gymnast herself, to the start of her coaching career in the late 70s, and then her first high school head coaching job in 1982, and now, still coaching in 2024.

That’s quite a run.

“Gymnastics was my life. That’s really it in a nutshell,” Westcott said.

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