Camas, WA — High School sweethearts Jacqueline Purwins, a gymnast, and Mark Kim, a swimmer, did a rare thing last weekend: They helped lead their respective Camas High School athletic teams win back-to-back State Championships. Winning a State title is no small feat, let alone having it happen to two teams from the same school on the same weekend. Add to that, the sweetheart factor.
It was, for them, the perfect weekend.
The victories started Friday night, at the Tacoma Dome, as Carol Willson led her Gymnastics team to a historic victory over perennial champions from Woodinville. The girls finished strong in the bars event, which was enough to propel them over the top.
The winning announcement was euphoric, with the girls hugging and crying tears of joy.
”I’m still processing it,” said Jax, sitting down with a smile on her face at Caffe Piccolo in Downtown Camas. “Given our schedule this week with the holiday, and the snow days, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect.”
Moments later, her sweetheart, Mark, enters the cafe, proudly wearing his Papermaker sweatshirt.
Ever the reluctant interviewee, the talented and focused Mark, said the same thing.
”I’m still processing it,” said Mark, whose swim team has now won State for two consecutive years.
Jax has been in gymnastics since she was three, and worked her whole life for that moment last week.
“What I love about the sport is that you can never reach the top,” she said. “They’re always creating new skills, so if you add a new twist, you can get a new skill named after you.”
The sport has taken her to several other states, including Utah and Idaho, and she’s spent a lot of time in Seattle. She credits constant support from her family, which, she said is how she got this far.
At State finals, Jax said she knew what she had to do. The whole team did.
”Alissa’s routines were amazing,” she said. “I did my best, and so did everyone else. I didn’t know we’d win until bars.”
During competition, Jax said she ignores the scores. “I generally don’t look at the scores, and try to block everything out,” she said. “We’ve had a lot more fun this year with Shea, Alissa, and Lynn.”
Mark has been swimming for six years, and started making a name for himself by winning individual State titles, culminating in last year’s first-ever State team Championship for Camas. He’s fast, really fast, and so is his brother, Jaden.
The boys went into Saturday’s finals behind Kamiak, and knew they had to focus to bridge the gap and win the title again.
“We knew the situation we were in,” said Mark. “We didn’t really have to tell each other — we just knew what had to be done. Everyone did a great job!”
The boys climbed back, and before their last swim, they led by 50 points. Yes, they are that fast.
But, it’s also about focus.
Before every event, Mark puts on his headphones and gets in that “zone.” His mind is totally focused on the event in front of him.
“Without music, I don’t swim well,” he said. “At that moment, nothing else matters.”
So what does he listen to?
”Just two songs,” he said. “I play ‘Till I Collapse’ and ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem.”
He’s grown up in very focused Korean family — “no excuses, don’t ask why, and ‘no’ isn’t an answer is what my parents taught me,” he said.
”My parents pushed me beyond what we wanted to do,” said Mark. “It’s a non-stop grind. They taught me to never give up.”
The Jax/Mark relationship isn’t your typical one. They’ve only “dated” four times, like going out to dinner or seeing a movie.
“Mostly, we just hang out and do homework together,” said Jax. “Or we walk the dog.”
They’ve known each since 5th grade, and there were some attractions in middle school, but they didn’t “date” until high school. They had lockers close to each other.
Jax stays busy with diving practices multiple times a week in Beaverton, while Mark also plays alto saxophone for the Camas Marching Band.
”He doesn’t sleep,” said Jax.
They are both very driven, and want to excel at everything they try.
Mark will attend Westpoint, starting in July. He wants to be a Mechanical Engineer, and will also swim for Westpoint. Jax hasn’t decided on a school just yet, but she wants to be an orthopedic surgeon.
They are both essential parts of two teams that made Papermaker history — which will be part of their legacy. And, they’re just getting started.
Like many alumni, we’ll follow up on their progress, they’ll still be hounded a little by the press, but for the moment, they are savoring what happened last week.
Two State Championships in one weekend. Yes, that really happened.