The young gymnast had the day off from school but was still up earlier than usual on Friday morning for a special workout with an Olympic gold medalist.
Natalie, 7, held on to a plastic bag containing a marker and a photograph of Carly Patterson, who won the gold as the all-around champion in 2004.
"I want to get her autograph," she said.
Natalie and her brother, Calvin, 9, knew Patterson was in the room.
"Let's get moving," said Gael Thomson, YMCA wellness director. "Is our Olympic gymnast here? Do you see her?"
Several people in the group of about 25 quickly pointed out Carly Patterson standing quietly among them, waiting to do the workout. The gymnast had her hair pulled up and wore a black short-sleeved shirt that included the Kellogg's Pacific Rim Championships logo. The international event features gymnasts from 17 countries and runs through Sunday at Comcast Arena and Comcast Community Ice Rink.
The free workout for all ages was led by Thomson and YMCA instructors Shannon Brennan and Amy Bomar. The event was organized to show support for the championships and provide a fitness opportunity "to get families off the bleachers," said Thomson, the YMCA's wellness director.
"My idea was to give people flavors of what the YMCA has to offer and open it up to the entire community so that people can meet the gymnast," Thomson said. "I thought this was an amazing opportunity."
The group started with a warm-up that included marching in place, kicks and jumping jacks. Then instructors led participants, including Patterson, through several Zumba dance routines and wrapped up the hour-long session with strength and flexibility exercises on floor mats.
Patterson also helped to promote the Pacific Rim Championships Thursday through several other community events. The gymnast signed autographs at the American Girl Store at the Alderwood mall in Lynnwood and met more fans at the Imagine Children's Museum in Everett. Snohomish resident Lily Bath, 9, said she met Patterson at the museum but still wanted to join the workout. She and several other young gymnasts from Leading Edge Gymnastics Academy followed along with instructors at the front of the room.
"She gave autographs and I already asked her a lot of questions," Lily said.
After the workout, Phoebe Klingman, 10, was among those who asked Patterson for an autograph. The Stanwood girl and dancer wrote a school report about the gymnast. She brought it in a book for Patterson to sign and mentioned she was a little nervous about meeting her.
"Carly Patterson is a big role model for me," she said.
After signing autographs, Patterson gave some advice for her young fans.
"Just love what you're doing because I had a passion for (gymnastics) and I think that's what got me as far as I did in the sport," she said.
The Kellogg's Pacific Rim Championships continue today and Sunday at the Comcast Arena in Everett.
Today's schedule includes:
1:30 p.m.: Men's team and all-around, Comcast Arena
3 p.m.: Rhythmic individual event finals, Comcast Community Ice Rink
7 p.m.: Men's team and all-around, Comcast Arena
Single-session tickets are $15-$65 and can be purchased at the Comcast Arena box office, at www.comcastarenaeverett.com, or by calling 866-332-8499.
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