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NIWOT — The Niwot High School gymnastics team doesn’t know quite what to expect from the competition in its first season at the Class 4A level. But the club expects to be just as good, if not better, than last season.

If the Cougars are an improved team, and they think they are, expect them to be more competitive than they were last year.

“This is our first year moving down to 4A so we’re feeling a bit better about state,” sophomore Alexis Carroll said. “We lost a few really good seniors from last year but we also have a few really good freshmen coming in. The girls are all working really hard and we’re excited for this season. We could be even better than last year.”

While the Cougars feel good about their potential, they are battling the same health issues as most teams face in the graceful yet brutal sport of gymnastics. Carroll, for example, had her season derailed at its midpoint last year when she broke two bones in her left hand.

Missing out on the state tournament a year ago, Carroll is determined to make it as a sophomore.

“I definitely had already qualified on at least vault and I was going to go to state before I broke my hand,” Carroll said. “It doesn’t change much for me this season. I’m doing a new skill on beam but that’s about it. I’m just looking to stay healthy and have a great season this year.”

Another Cougars sophomore fighting to get back to full strength, Ellie Beck is returning from an offseason shin injury.

“Last year at state, I had my highest score of the season on floor so I’m really excited about that,” Beeck said. “I’m also just trying to get healthy enough to compete in the vault. We have the potential to be a really good team this year and we’re all trying to compete the best we can.”

The Cougars placed 11th at the 5A state meet last season. With their highest scorer Maddie Barkow returning for her senior season, a top 10 finish in 4A is well within their reach. Along with Barkow, the Cougars return state qualifiers in Carroll, Beeck, and seniors Jordan Sleeth and Gabby Casey.

With a wealth of returning experience and incoming skill, the Cougars still don’t know quite what to expect from the top teams in 4A. Until they see some of their new competition firsthand, head coach Mallorie Lang said the Cougars won’t know exactly where they stack up in the 4A ranks.

“Like always we never really get a look at out competition until the season begins and never really know where we will fall until the season gets underway,” Lang said. “I think we have a great group of girls this year and I think we are all ready to get this season underway.”

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