THORNTON — In the words of the late great Tom Petty, "The waiting is the hardest part."
For nearly an hour after the Niwot Cougars finished their final apparatus on Friday night in the Class 4A championship meet at Thornton High School, they waited under the bleachers, just hoping and praying that they had done enough to take home a title.
And after the painfully long wait, that included a number of chewed up fingernails, the Cougars got the news they didn't want to hear.
After leading the first rotation, the Cougars slipped a tiny bit in the second and saw their lead disappear to Elizabeth. The Cardinals claimed their first title since 2012 with a score of 179.15 to Niwot's 176.75.
Niwot coach Marisa Purcell wasn't about to play the guessing game after the results came her way.
"They brought it and there is not anything I would say they could have done differently because you can't be perfect," she said. "They did everything they could and I'm proud of each and every one of them.
"We came and we fought for it."
It was a fantastic start for the Cougars, who opened on the floor with a dynamic performance that featured all the flair and pizazz that had the judges grinning.
Four Niwot girls, Lindsay Chohon (9.225), Grace Stephenson (9.175), Lilliana Martin (9.1) and Taylor Green (8.9) all qualified for Saturday's individual apparatus finals and helped the Cougars score a team best 44.85 to jump out to an early lead.
They followed it right up on the vault with a group effort of 44.775 — again paced by Chohon's 9.375. They were feeling good after one rotation, up 2.2 points on Elizabeth in what everybody in the gym knew was going to be a tight race.
"We were excited with how we did and we were staying hyped," said Green, of her teams mood after the first rotation. "We just wanted to stay positive, we are fighting and don't look at the scoreboard, because the scores don't matter.
"Just go out have fun and do our best, because we know we can do it and just rock these events."
They went to the beam next and after a few slips and falls, regained the composure to post a respectable score of 43.6. But they all knew it was going to take an epic performance on the uneven bars to win a title.
"I told them (after beam) that it wasn't over," Purcell said. "And that we needed to go to bars and finish this meet the way we came in ... as a team."
And on a night when the scores were a little stingy, the Cougars had a tough time impressing the judges in their final event — in fact the best score of the night on the bars was just 9.325 by Standley Lake's Camille Guinet — and walked away with 43.45.
"We are really proud. We went out and we gave it our all and worked hard for this, this season," said Green, who was one of two Cougars — Chohon the other — to finish in the top eight of the all-around competition. "We are proud of how we did."
Niwot will be well represented on Saturday in the individual apparatus finals. Chohon had the second best score on both the vault and floor and will contend for titles in each.
Grace Stephenson qualified for finals in the vault (9.05), floor (9.175) and beam (8.85). Lilliana Martin will come back on the vault, bars and floor.
"Take a deep breath and now it is their time, individually their time to shine," said Purcell, of the more relaxed approach on Saturday.
Competition begin at 1:30 Saturday for both classifications.
CLASS 4A STATE MEET
At Thornton H.S.
Team scores — Elizabeth 179.15, Niwot 176.75, Green Mountain 172.325, Rampart 170.775, Pueblo Central 165.175, Loveland 162.225, Evergreen 161.45, Standley Lake 160.475, Alamosa 151.375.
All-around — 1. Anastasia Buzalsky, Elizabeth, 37.125; 2. Lindsay Chohon, Niwot, 36.675; 3. Ramya Sinha, Green Mountain, 36.25; 4. Emily Graham, Green Mountain, 36.225; 5. Taylor Green, Niwot, 35.725; 6. Grace Braune, Pueblo Central, 35.65; 7. Camille Guinet, Standley Lake, 35.50; 8. Emily Schaefer, Elizabeth, 35.275.
NIWOT INDIVIDUALS WHO QUALIFIED FOR APPARATUS FINALS
Vault — 2. Lindsay Chohon 9.375; 6. Grace Stephenson 9.05; 8. Lilliana Martin 9.0; 10. Taylor Green 8.9.
Uneven bars — 8. Lindsay Chohon 8.95; 10. Mallory Christopher 8.85; 12. Lilliana Martin 8.775; 13. Taylor Green 8.775.
Floor — 2. Lindsay Chohon 9.225; 3. Grace Stephenson 9.175; 4. Lilliana Martin 9.1; 9. Taylor Green 8.9.
Beam — 5. Taylor Green 9.15; 6. Lindsay Chohon 9.125; 12. Grace Stephenson 8.85.