BROOMFIELD — Broomfield gymnastics coach Erika Taga has slowly rebuilt the Eagles program over the past decade.
But inevitably in high school sports, losses happen and some years they hit harder than others.
Broomfield lost nine seniors off its Class 5A runner-up team from last year, and while name tags weren't completely necessary for the first week of practice, it is kind of like starting all over again.
"It's a new team for us and it's exciting," Taga said. "It's a new identity for us. It's a different challenge as a coach, though, because so many of the faces have not been through the process and they are learning as we go."
The Eagles, who won a state title in 2012, have been painfully close each of the past two seasons, watching Overland hoist the championship trophy each time by less than .5 of a point.
The benefit for Taga and the new group is a certain naivete among the reloaded, not rebuilt, team.
"There is not that sense of pressure or that chip on their shoulder. They really just don't know, so they are buying in to what we are telling them, which is great," said Taga, whose team scored 184.5 last year at the state meet to Overland's 184.9. "We had a great group the last two years and they were all very boisterous and vocal and that's a great thing to have, but we are really trying to re-create ourselves and it is kind of a fun challenge."
So instead of going out fast, the Eagles are taking things slower at the beginning of the season and allowing the new girls to acclimate to the system. It also will give time to sophomores Heidi Liles and Nicole Redmund to feel 100 percent comfortable after coming back from their freshman year injuries.
Redmund suffered a severely sprained ankle in the first event of the Eagles' invitational, but was able to return and compete in one event at state. Liles broke her ankle in practice just before the invite and missed the rest of the season.
Also back for her senior season is Sarah Holbrook, who is battling through the pain associated with Bertolotti's syndrome — a genetic disorder in the lower back.
"Some things do hurt more, but since it is my senior year it is worth it to go out with a bang," said Holbrook, who won the state balance beam last season with a score of 9.7. "I'll do as much as I can."
Said Taga of Holbrook, who finished runner-up in the all-around competition as a sophomore: "She's a leader in the gym whether she wants to be or not because of her role and the girls know what she is going through. It is a challenge every day, but she is doing her best at pushing through. Talk about heart and desire, that kid has it for her senior year. She is not an emotional kid and she knows what it means. It is a pretty special year for her regardless of how she ends up doing, she is thankful to be here."
Taga is excited about the fact that she could have upward of seven girls, including Holbrook's younger sister Abby, who could potentially compete in the all-around.
Abby Holbrook is also working her way back from injury, but wanted the experience of competing with Sarah one last time.
Also back for Broomfield this year will be Nicki Verheyen. She scored a 9.55 in the finals of the state meet on the beam and placed fourth in the event. She is also one of the seven who will compete in all four events.