NIWOT — In terms of overall numbers, this year's Niwot gymnastics team will be smaller than usual, but that hasn't stopped the Cougars from setting their sights as high as possible.
Coming off a runner-up finish last season, no gymnast embodies the Cougars' shared expectations more than senior Lindsay Chohon. She was second in the all-around at the 2017 Class 4A state meet, catalyzing the Cougars to a runner-up finish in the team scoring competition.
The way Chohon and the Cougars see things, there's only one spot higher than second and it's theirs for the taking if everything falls into place the way they hope it does in 2018.
"Knowing it's my last time to go out there and do what I can, I'm really motivated to do my best," Chohon said. "It's a smaller team this year and we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores so I'm going to try to set an example. Winning first at state would be amazing. For me and the team, it would feel great to know that we accomplished something so huge."
At the 4A state meet last fall, Chohon placed in all four events. She was second in the floor exercise, eighth in the uneven bars, sixth on the balance beam and second in the vault.
Chohon is looking for a big scoring jump on the uneven bars to propel her ahead of the competition this year, even though defending champion Anastasia Buzalsky from Elizabeth will be back as a senior. Elizabeth is also the defending 4A team champion and the Cougars will counter with Chohon, junior Taylor Green and sophomore Grace Stephenson, each of whom finished top 10 in the all-around competition last season.
"Our ultimate goal is to come together and try to win state," Chohon said. "I think we're definitely contenders. We all just want to come out and perform to the best of our abilities and work hard for the team. For me, ultimately, that means leading the team as a senior, just being there for everybody and having fun."
All gymnasts from the St. Vrain Valley School District compete for Niwot, which comprises girls from seven different schools this season. Going from rivals on opposite sides of a football stadium Friday nights to competing together as a team Saturday mornings is always a challenge but it has worked for the Cougars, who have finished runners-up in consecutive seasons since winning the Class 4A state championship in 2015.
"We have a smaller team this year so it's a little quieter in the gym so far," Niwot head coach Marisa Purcell said. "It changes the dynamic when you go from 25 girls to 15 but the routine stays the same as far as getting these girls to come in and work as a team and get to know each other. There will be more underclassmen than upperclassmen so we'll be young, but we'll have a good mix.
"We have some really good girls coming back and Lindsay is a great team leader. She's been working on some new skills so that she can be a contender again and we'll continue to work on getting better as a team so that we can be contenders again as well."