Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
THORNTON — In any sport, athletes are constantly trying to improve, adapt through adversity and peak at the right time.
Niwot gymnastics did that and more when the Cougars put on their best show at the Class 4A state championships at Thornton High School on Friday. They finished runner-up behind 4A powerhouse Elizabeth, which has now won six team titles.
Elizabeth beat out Niwot by just 2.6 points as the Cardinals scored 180.725 to the Cougars’ 178.125. Third-place Palmer Ridge gave them a run for their money, however, as it finished with a score of 177.625.
“It feels so good,” head coach Marisa Purcell said. “It’s a lot of hard working and that’s every team in this gym. We came out and everyone showed up and everyone did a great job. Palmer Ridge did amazing and so to be able to hold it off at the end feels so good.”
Niwot last won the 4A team title in 2018 and has finished in the top two five times since 2015, with two state titles and, now, three runner-up finishes. Elizabeth beat the Cougars out in 2017 too.
All season long, the Cougars have shined in the floor and vault. On Friday, however, they turned the tables when they began the night on bars, scored 43.475 as a team, and then ended on the beam with a score of 45.600, their highest of the night. They exceeded Purcell’s expectations in both.
Senior Mia Curry finished sixth in the individual all-around competition as she nabbed a 36.325 score to barely beat out sophomore teammate Grayce Gutierrez, who placed seventh at 36.100.
“It was definitely something that we had hoped that we could do and something that we worked our butts off to do and I’m really, really glad that even though it may not have turned out as perfect for me, our team was able to achieve such a huge feat,” Curry said. “That was crazy. In general, bars and beam are, of course, the scary events, the wobblier events, the ones where more things can go wrong. They’re not as fast. To have those first and last was both terrifying and exciting.”
The Cougars have been building toward this moment all season long as, with every meet, they seemed to improve bit by bit. For senior Liv Sroka, that meant donning ankle weights during practice so she could work on increasing the height of her jumps for her floor routine. Her efforts paid dividends as she finished eighth on floor (9.250) and 10th on the beam (9.100) to advance to the individual finals on Saturday.
She’ll be joined by Curry, Gutierrez, Ava Silverstein and Maeve Flentie.
“Each meet, our scores have increased, which is what we want,” Sroka said. “We usually start off at the lowest and just kind of build from there, which we’ve been able to do this season. A lot of girls on my team have added a lot of new stuff. It’s all paying off.”