THORNTON — The waiting is always the hardest part.
On Friday night, Broomfield was in search of its second Class 5A state title in three years and was chasing defending champion Overland.
The Eagles knew what they had to do on the beam, on the sport’s toughest apparatus. It had to be flawless.
“We needed to be great and we probably fell just short of that,” said Broomfield coach Erika Taga, whose team was just .45 points away from defending their title last season. “It’s disappointing.”
Hitting 6 for 6 on the beam — in layman’s terms, going through all six gymnasts without a single fall — is rare enough, but on the biggest stage with all the pressure that comes with trying to win a state title, it becomes that much tougher.
The Eagles had two early falls, including one from Amanda McKee — who according to Taga had fallen a grand total of six times all season, including practice — that made the comeback a little tougher.
“We kind of knew going in that we didn’t really have anything big that would help us win,” said senior Kailey Licata, who attends Holy Family. “So it wasn’t that stressful. We all just wanted to have a good beam set, especially the seniors.”
Said Taga: “I can’t take away from that beam set, that was a good set.”
When all was said and done Overland, by the narrowest of margins, captured its second straight Class 5A title with a team score of 184.975. The Eagles were second with a score of 184.5 and Legacy/Mountain Range was third at 184.4.
After a slow start in the first rotation on the uneven bars and then the floor, Broomfield found itself trailing Overland 93.55-91.25.
The Eagles promptly came out in the second rotation and were masterful on the vault. All six vaulters scored 9.2 or better and it was Nicole Verheyen’s 9.65 that led the way for the Eagles, who scored a 47.0.
“We just weren’t ourselves the first half of the competition and we talked about that,” Taga said, “And when we came out on vault, I thought, we are in it and we are back, this is us and we are going to hit beam.”
Licata was sharp throughout the event, opening with a 9.5 on bars and following that up with a 9.625 on the floor. She came back in the after the break and scored a 9.475 on the vault and closed out her final meet with a 9.35 on beam.
“I feel pretty good about it, on beam I could have done a little better, but there is always something you can do better,” said Licata, who finished fifth in the all-around. “Overall, I feel pretty good about it.”
Nicki Verheyen also had a fantastic day, finishing second on the beam (9.65) and fifth on the floor (9.525). Sarah Holbrook, who finished second last season in the all-around and competed all year long with a nagging injury caused by Bertolotti’s Syndrome and was limited in what she could do, qualified for Saturday’s finals with a 9.55 on beam.
McKee was one of two Eagles in the running for the all-around title. She finished 22nd and will have a chance on Saturday to compete for the podium on the floor. Her score of 9.475 was seventh-best.
Legacy junior Rachel Dillman, competing in her first season of high school gymnastics, started her meet with a huge effort on the bars, scoring 9.625, good enough for fourth overall. Dillman ended up fourth in the all-around competition as well with a combined score of 37.9.
“I feel like I hit, but there are always places to improve,” Dillman said. “I messed up on a floor pass, was supposed to do a double and only did a full, but I came back strong. Same with beam, I stayed on, but there were certainly some wobbles I can work on.”
The Mustangs, much like Broomfield, started slowly and were in sixth place after two rotations. But they closed strong to move into third.
“We had a few bobbles on the beam, but we were really good on the other three events,” Legacy/Mountain Range coach Diane Clark said. “Our vault warm-up was horrible, so I was a little worried, but they did great on floor and vault.”
Caitlyn Paplow will join Dillman at the only other Mustangs gymnast in Saturday’s individual finals. Paplow qualified in the vault (9.575), beam (9.375) and floor (9.4).
Also of note, Pomona’s Shea Zeman, who like Licata attends Holy Family, finished 24th in the all-around competition. She also qualified on the vault (9.475) and bars (9.35).
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CLASS 5A STATE MEET
At Thornton High School
Team scores — Overland 184.975, Broomfield 184.5, Legacy/Mountain Range 184.4, Cherry Creek 182.4, Pomona 181.475, Arvada West 180.4, Green Mountain 179.75, Thornton 179.625, Lakewood 175.4, Ponderosa 174.25, Rocky Mountain 171.7, Chatfield 170.525.
All-around — 1. Kelsey Boychuk, Pomona, 38.325; 2. Samantha Simon, Cherry Creek, 38.125; 3. Veronica Vasina, Arvada West, 38.075; 4. Rachel Dillman, Legacy/Mtn. Range, 37.9; 5. Kailey Licata, Broomfield, 37.85; 6. Sierra Kirylo, Thornton, 37.825; 7. Devin Bundas, Overland, 37.775; 8. MacKenzie Doerr, Cherry Creek, 37.475.
Broomfield individual event qualifiers
Vault — 12. Kailey Licata, 9.475; 14. Nicki Verheyen, 9.45.
Uneven bars — 7. Kailey Licata, 9.5.
Beam — 2. Nicki Verheyen, 9.65; 3. Sarah Holbrook, 9.55; 11. Kailey Licata, 9.35.
Floor — 5. Kailey Licata, 9.525; 7. Amanda McKee, 9.475.
Legacy/Mountain Range individual event qualifiers
Vault — 6. Caitlyn Paplow, 9.575.
Uneven bars — 4. Rachel Dillman, 9.645.
Beam — 9. Caitlyn Paplow, 9.375; 15. Rachel Dillman, 9.3.
Floor — 4. Rachel Dillman, 9.55; 14. Caitlyn Paplow, 9.4.