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Gymnastics: Holbrook won’t let pain deter her from Broomfield’s goals

Sarah Holbrook (left) and Kailey Licata hope to lead Broomfield gymnastics back to the top of the team race at state.
Paul Aiken / Daily Camera
Sarah Holbrook (left) and Kailey Licata hope to lead Broomfield gymnastics back to the top of the team race at state.

BROOMFIELD — Hey football players, don’t ever question the toughness of a gymnast.

Especially Sarah Holbrook.

The Broomfield junior could have very well sat out this upcoming season and not a single person would have batted and eye at the notion. Not her coaches. Not her parents. Not her teammates.

The reigning state runner-up in the Class 5A all-around competition was born with Bertolotti’s syndrome — in layman’s terms, her L5 vertebrae is out of whack and is rubbing bone on bone with her sacrum — and the effects of a lifetime of gymnastics has taken its toll and surgery is set for December.

“The doctor said I wasn’t going to cause any more harm, but doing club was just too much,” said Holbrook, who says she lives on a daily basis with a pain level hovering from a six to eight out of 10.

So it raises the obvious question of, why?

“Because this might be my last year because of the surgery,” she said. “To me it is worth it just to push through.”

Said Broomfield coach Erika Taga: “This has been a hard decision for Sarah and she thought a month ago gymnastics was done, not by her own choice. I don’t know how much she is letting on because she is a pretty tough kid.”

Holbrook admitted that her routines won’t be nearly as difficult as the ones that made 2013 such a special season, but knows that when she is competing that her efforts will not only be good enough to medal, but help her teammates in achieving their goal of a state title.

“My goal is to help the team as much as I can so we have a shot,” said Holbrook, who knows that any sort of complacency or thought of her back could be damaging during her performances. “I think about it a lot outside of the gym just because it hurts a lot, but when I get in here it’s easier to forget.”

How painful is it? Just sitting at a desk in a classroom is a task, something she realized on the first day of school. After surgery in December, Holbrook will be out of school for six weeks and will be facing at least a nine-month recovery process.

Luckily for Taga and the Eagles, they are blessed with enough talent to make a legitimate state run. If Holbrook was No. 1, then Kailey Licata is 1A.

The senior, who actually attends Holy Family, will look to improve on her eighth-place all-around finish last season and help the Eagles — who finished .45 of a point behind state champ Overland in the team chase — reclaim the title they won in 2012.

“Last year really motivated us because we were so close,” said Licata, who placed fourth on the uneven bars in 2013. “We know what we want and we don’t plan on just going through the season like that.

“There are definitely a lot of new faces that can help out and the chemistry is good.”

State experience comes in the form of Heather Betz, Alana Hill, Jessica Riley, Izzy Roser, Molly Snipes and Nicki Verheyen. Throw in the senior leadership of Amanda McKee as well as freshman talent from Heidi Liles and Nicole Redmund, and that is a recipe for success.

“Last year has been with us every day and these seniors have been with us and seen both sides of the coin,” Taga said. “They don’t have a chip on their shoulder because they weren’t wronged in any way, they just want to get back to 2012 and being on top.

“I’m excited. There is a different intensity this year that we just sort of lacked last year. I didn’t know it at the time last year, but seeing us this year, I like the way we are approaching this season.”

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