THORNTON — You just never know how kids are going to react when the lights are a little brighter and the stage is a little bigger.
The Niwot Cougars, new to the Class 4A gymnastics scene, found themselves right in the mix of the team competition with Standley Lake and Elizabeth on Friday at Thornton through their first three events.
Everything that could go right, went right. For the first time all season, all six members of the Cougars’ balance beam rotation made it though without a single fall.
“That was a first,” Niwot coach Mallorie Lang said. “They apparently really wanted that ice cream cake that I promised them.”
All the Cougars needed was a solid performance on the uneven bars, one of their strongest events, and a spot in the top two would have been locked up.
But disaster struck for the Cougars. Maddie Barkow, who mentioned to her coach that she started to feel sick to her stomach after the beam, took a nasty fall and that was followed up by Hannah McDonald, who also slipped during her routine.
“Yes, it was rough on everybody, but I think for the most part they went out there and tried their hardest and they left everything on the floor,” said Lang, who had to wait for nearly 90 minutes, through technical difficulties, to find out her team’s fate. “At the beginning we told them, yes, everybody wants to win, but at the end of the day, you have to do your best and if your best is beating your old all-around, then in my mind that is a win too.”
When all was said and done and the numbers finally crunched, Niwot finished third with a team score of 177.375. Standley Lake won its first team title in the sport with a 179.05 and Elizabeth was second with 178.35 points.
Going back to the beam, where Niwot qualified four for Saturday’s individual apparatus finals, it was Gabby Casey’s 9.2 that stood out.
“A big performance on bars would have really helped,” Casey said. “But we knew that we needed to have a solid performance in every event.”
In addition to the team trophies being awarded on Friday, so too was the all-around title. Niwot’s Marissa Koski’s total of 36.4 was good enough for a fourth-place finish. Thompson Valley’s Alyssa Carroll won for the second straight year with a dominating score of 38.55.
Koski was consistent throughout the day and ironically, in an event where the rest of her team had their struggles, she shined. Her score of 9.525 on the uneven bars was second only to Carroll’s 9.7.
“It was frustrating to watch, simply because we had been so good on bars in meets and in practice. To see that happen, we know we are better,” said Koski, who also qualified for the finals in vault and on the beam.
Barkow qualified third on the vault with a score of 9.4, she will also try and improve on her ninth-place score of 9.075 on the floor. Alexis Carroll also qualified for two events, scoring a 9.375 (4th) on the vault and a 9.05 (9th) on the beam.
“No matter what, they did a good job and outdid my expectations on beam, they killed it on beam and I can’t really ask for anything more,” Lang said. “I really have no complaints, no matter where they finish, they know that I am proud of them.”
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CLASS 4A STATE MEET
At Thornton High School
Team scores — Standley Lake 179.05, Elizabeth 178.35, Niwot 177.375, Thompson Valley 172.05, Evergreen 166.825, Pueblo Central 165.025.
All-around — 1. Alyssa Carroll, Thompson Valley, 38.55; 2. Jordan Ireland, Standley Lake, 36.975; 3. Rachel Cody, Standley Lake, 36.575; 4. Marissa Koski, Niwot, 36.4; 5. Brooke Burton, Elizabeth, 35.80; 6. Caroline Cohen, Evergreen, 35.625; 7. Maddi York, Standley Lake, 35.30; 8. Jessie Geerczynski, Elizabeth, 35.275.
Niwot qualifiers for Saturday’s individual finals
Top 15 qualify
Vault — 3. Maddie Barkow, 9.4; 4. Alexis Carroll, 9.375; 6. Marissa Koski, 9.15; 9. Hannah McDonald, 9.05; 11. Lilli Martin, 9.0.
Uneven bars — 2. Marissa Koski, 9.525; 7. Gabby Casey, 8.825.
Floor — 9. Maddie Barkow, 9.075.
Beam — 6. Gabby Casey, 9.2; 9. Alexis Carroll, 9.05; 12. Marissa Koski, 9.0; 13. Amelia Sears, 8.95.