The Niwot gymnastics program isn’t exactly starting from scratch this season, but after graduation and other pursuits lured away much of last year’s varsity roster, fourth-year head coach Marisa Purcell knew that picking up where the team left off after winning the 2018 state title was an unlikely scenario. Instead, she is looking forward to molding a new generation of Niwot gymnasts into state champions, even if she has to be patient in the meantime.
“It’s very exciting to have a new team and some new adventures,” she said after their first home meet of the season on Sept. 4. “We always enjoy newcomers. They bring a fun spunk to the team, and it always changes things up. It’s nice to have the challenge of finding what works for them and having them experience high school and being part of a team.”
That new energy was on display during the tri-meet against Thornton and Elizabeth, but, unfortunately, it didn’t translate into many medals for Niwot. The home team finished third, with 169.50 points, which wasn’t exactly a surprise to their coach. However, she was pleasantly surprised by their performance on the beam, which has emerged as a strong event for the youthful team.
“We see that as ahead of the other three right now,” she said. “When I say it’s a different year, that’s a difference this year.”
Purcell’s cupboard isn’t completely bare. Returning to the team this year are Mallory Christopher, a state qualifier, and Zoey Stowe, who Purcell will be relying on for leadership and mentoring. Also back with the team are Mia Curry and sophomore Olivia Sroka, two more state competitors in 2018. Among the host of newcomers is freshman Savanna Slater, who Purcell expects to compete in the all-around competition.
Otherwise, Purcell is finding herself navigating a new landscape.
“There’s a lot more preparation going on behind the scenes that you don’t see,” she said of her young team. “I feel like right now we’re really trying to get these routines down and get them the skills they need, versus perfecting and critiquing their routines to a T. I’m starting a little further back that I have before.”
Which is not to say she doesn’t have high expectations. They’re just not state championship expectations.
“It’s really hard to teach what winning looks like,” Purcell said. “When you lose a big bunch of girls that know how to win, the new ones don’t have any idea what it takes or what that feels like. I am hoping to teach them what state champions gymnastics is all about.”