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Gymnastics: Niwot finishes third at Class 4A state championships

Cougars advance four, including Mia Curry, to Saturday’s individual event championships

  • Niwot High School sophomore Liadon Graham competes in the vault competition on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School sophomore Savannah Slater competes in the uneven bars on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School junior Mia Curry is celebrates with assistant coach Maddi York after dismounting from the uneven bars on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School junior Olivia Sroka laughs with head coach Marisa Purcell after competing in the floor exercise on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School junior Mia Curry does a handstand while competing in the floor exercise on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School sophomore Ava Silverstein competes in the uneven bars on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School sophomore Ava Silverstein hugs head coach Marisa Purcell after competing in the uneven bars on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School junior Madison Sloane competes in the balance beam on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School gymnasts, from left, Olivia Sroka, Liadon Graham and Arabella Chen hold hands while their team is announced as the third place team winner of the 4A state championship on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School sophomore Savannah Slater competes in the balance beam event on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • The Niwot High School gymnastics team looks to the flag during “The Star Spangles Banner” before a state 4A competition on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School junior Mia Curry competes in the uneven bars on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School sophomore Ava Silverstein competes in the balance beam event on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School sophomore Savannah Slater competes in the vault competition on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School sophomore Nia Terrell compete in the floor exercise on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School junior Arabella Chen laughs with head coach Marisa Purcell after competing in the balance beam on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School sophomore Savannah Slater dismounts from the balance beam on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Tim Hurst/Staff Photographer

    Niwot High School junior Madison Sloane competes in the vault competition on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo.

  • Niwot High School junior Arabella Chen competes in balance beam on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Niwot High School junior Olivia Sroka competes in the balance beam event on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Thornton Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

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THORNTON — Even in a strange year where the lights went out for months at gyms across the country, Niwot’s gymnastics team returned with a power surge at the state championships Friday night.

Mia Curry had the best score in the beam event and finished inside the top five in all four exercises, leading the Cougars to a third-place finish at the Class 4A team and all-around meet at Thornton High School.

What a journey it had been. Niwot, despite facing a slew of trials amid a pandemic-shortened, seven-meet season, has now finished inside the top three in seven straight seasons. Contributing challenges for gymnastic programs across the state included little gym time in the offseason, in-season quarantines and lower numbers while competing with club gymnastics’ spring season.

“Every year we just keep going at it — we don’t give up, these girls don’t give up,” said Niwot coach Marisa Purcell, who was missing one of her athletes at state due to a quarantine. “This definitely has been one of the hardest years for probably every coach in the state trying to figure out how to do all of this.”

The atmosphere inside the 47-year-old high school was far different than usual for the championships. The noise was muted as the bleachers were only filled sparsely with family members, and the eight-team competition was split into a morning and evening session.

It wouldn’t tame soaring Niwot, though. Or its star acrobat, Curry.

The dynamic junior led the way with the top mark in the beam event, posting a score of 9.325. She also took second in uneven bars (9.05), third in the vault (9.1) and fifth on the floor exercise (9.425).

From it, the winner of the all-around title in 2019 should be in strong contention to repeat when those results are announced Saturday at the individual championships. Only the top-12 finishers from 5A’s team and all-around finals from Thursday — where Broomfield finished second — and 4A, will advance to the final day at Thornton.

“Being that today was the (individual) qualifier and team championship, I actually feel a lot less stressed, a lot less pressure going into tomorrow,” Curry said. “Today, I was doing everything for my team. I absolutely love individual finals, but I think that team finals are so much more fun, even though they’re more stressful.”

Three other Niwot gymnasts advanced to the final day with a top-12 placing. Olivia Sroka finished ninth in the beam (8.725) and 11th in floor (9.15). Ava Silverstein was 10th in bars (8.65) and 11th in beam (8.65), and Madison Sloane added a 10th-place finish in beam (8.7).

Perhaps more importantly, it added up to the Cougars second straight third-place finish since winning their sixth title in program history in 2018.

When asked how that consistency continued despite the major obstacles laid out before them, Purcell chuckled.

“Work,” she said. “Blood, sweat and tears.”