Medical disorder is no excuse for Union gymnast

Mac Ridgway perseveres, then flourishes in her favorite sport

VANCOUVER — Her left arm is shorter than her right arm, so she makes an adjustment.

She has a tough time with her left-handed grip, but she makes it work.

Mac Ridgway of Union was born with arteriovenous malformation, which disrupts normal blood flow. That has not stopped her from becoming one of the best high school gymnasts in the state. Photo by Mike Schultz
Mac Ridgway of Union was born with arteriovenous malformation, which disrupts normal blood flow. That has not stopped her from becoming one of the best high school gymnasts in the state. Photo by Mike Schultz

At times her medicine will limit how much she can train on one event, but she adapts.

Mac Ridgway is so adept with these movements that her movements in her sport seem flawless.

That is exactly how the senior from Union High School wants it as one of the best high school gymnasts in the state. This week, the best will get together for the WIAA state championships at Sammamish High School in Bellevue.

Ridgway qualified for state last year and has made it again — beating fellow competitors while also overcoming some of her own obstacles.

“I’ve never used it as an excuse to keep me from doing what I want to do,” Ridgway said.

The “it” she is referring to is arteriovenous malformation. Ridgway was born with AVM, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries and veins, which disrupts normal blood flow.

Mac Ridgway of Union said she never wanted her condition — she suffers from blood clots, her blood vessels are weak, and her left arm is shorter than her right arm — as an excuse to not do anything. So she become a top gymnast. Photo by Mike Schultz
Mac Ridgway of Union said she never wanted her condition — she suffers from blood clots, her blood vessels are weak, and her left arm is shorter than her right arm — as an excuse to not do anything. So she become a top gymnast. Photo by Mike Schultz

In Ridgway’s case, her veins are abnormally large. Her left arm swells. She has a high blood clot level, and it is painful. The vessels are weak, as well.

She must take blood thinners. As an athlete, she prefers the shots, so she can time the medicine every few weeks. Soon after the shots are administered, she cannot train on the balance beam, for example. A fall could be devastating.

Still, she makes every practice with the Titans, working on the things she can do.

A week or so after taking her meds, she can go right back to full-time gymnastics.

“I kind of got used to it,” Ridgway said. “I’ve always had it so it’s never stopped me from doing anything.”

Union gymnast Mac Ridgway finished in second place on the floor exercise at the Class 4A state gymnastics championships last year. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union gymnast Mac Ridgway finished in second place on the floor exercise at the Class 4A state gymnastics championships last year. Photo by Mike Schultz

Nichelle Bethune is in her first year as the head coach of the Titans. She said she has known Ridgway for about a year. Still, it was weeks into the season when she even learned about Ridgway and AVM. It was the first time Ridgway needed her medication, so she had to sit out from balance beam training.

Ridgway never wanted to make a big deal of it. She doesn’t want AVM to define her. Still, her coach was impressed.

“For her to figure it out on her own is amazing,” Bethune said. “She made it work and performs all those skills without complaining.”

Yes, all the skills. Ridgway has qualified for state in the all-around, meaning she competes in all four events — the balance beam, floor exercise, uneven bars, and vault.

Floor exercise has always been her favorite. Tumbling is what she could do as a youngster, trying to figure out what else she could do with AVM. A year ago, she finished second at the Class 4A state championships on the floor. She also finished ninth on the balance beam.

“I can’t use both hands (on the beam),” she said, due to her shorter arm. “I complete a one-handed series.”

Nothing to it for someone who has had to find a way all her life.

Mac Ridgway of Union, shown here practicing on the vault, will compete in all four events at the 4A state championships this week at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. Photo by Mike Schultz
Mac Ridgway of Union, shown here practicing on the vault, will compete in all four events at the 4A state championships this week at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. Photo by Mike Schultz

Ridgway said she is going to miss high school gymnastics. Also a club gymnast, she regrets only coming out for the high school program for her final two years. This week will be special.

But this week will not end her athletics career.

Ridgway earned a scholarship to compete in acrobats and tumbling at Arizona Christian University. It is a relatively new sport and is growing.

“It’s a mix of gymnastics and cheerleading,” she explained. “The tumbling of gymnastics and the stunts of cheer.”

Oh yes, tumbling. That’s the thing that Ridgway was drawn to immediately as a young athlete.

This will also keep her involved in gymnastics.

“It’s always been my favorite sport to do,” Ridgway said. “It’s all I’ve ever known. Nothing’s really stuck with me except for gymnastics. It’s always been my passion.”

Camas confident in a repeat

The Camas Papermakers won the Class 4A state team title last year, and they are going there again this year with the intention of doing it again.

“If they do their job, we should have it in the bag,” Camas coach Carol Willson said. “I feel very confident.”

Shea McGee, who finished second in the all-around competition last year, returns to lead the Papermakers. She is the top scorer in the state this season. Willson added she has four all-around athletes who are strong and could place.

“They have to be on, of course,” Willson said, adding that no matter if a team is favored or not, that team must perform during crunch time.

“They’ve been trained. They’re ready. They’re strong. They’re healthy,” the coach said. “Now they have a job to do.”

The Ridgefield Spudders are going to the 3A/2A gymnastics meet as a team. The Spudders won the district title last week.

Ridgefield’s victory ended Columbia River’s amazing streak. The Chieftains had gone to state as a team the past 21 seasons.

The Class 3A/2A meet begins Thursday at Sammamish High School in Bellevue and concludes Friday. The Class 4A meet is Friday and Saturday.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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