Niwot gymnastics claims 2019 regional title
November 6, 2019
A surefooted performance on the balance beam lifted the youthful Niwot gymnastics team to first place at the Class 4A Region 3 championships, and now the Cougars are heading into the upcoming state meet with a renewed sense of "positivity," according to head coach Marisa Purcell.
"We've done a lot more individual varsity practices this year, to help them build confidence in each other and learn to lean on one another, and for them to come together and have expectations in each other," the fourth-year head coach said after her team posted the top Class 4A score at the regional meet, held Nov. 2 at Mountain Range High School. "In the last four weeks or so, they've definitely started to have the connection and that bond. They had to learn about each other in the beginning and learn how they each do things, and we've seen that start to come together."
Niwot was led on the day by Mia Curry, who placed first in the individual standings to capture the 2019 regional all-around title. The sophomore, whose home school is Silver Creek, posted top scores in floor and beam, and was also among Niwot's highest scorers in vault and bars. As a freshman, Curry competed for Niwot during its 2018 state title run, finishing fourth overall in bars, fifth in floor, and eighth in beam. In 2019, she has emerged as one of the Cougars' top competitors, and Purcell said it's been a year of tremendous development for the 10th-grader.
"We've added some big skills in, specifically her flipping a "tsuk" on vault," Purcell said, referring to a Tsukahara Vault, which consists of a half turn off the springboard onto the vault table, then a push backwards. "It's a big skill to put in at the end of the season, but she's been working it, and she felt confident and ready to do it, so that's where we're at. We also put in another skill on bars for her, So, individually, she's seen some growth, added a couple of skills, and really been critiquing herself, so she can do well in the all-around at state."
Joining her as all-around competitors for the Cougars were veterans Mallory Christopher (Longmont) and sophomore Olivia Sroka (Silver Creek), who will each be making return trips to the state championships. Freshman Savannah Slater (Mead) was also an all-around competitor for Niwot, and impressed Purcell with her confidence during the floor exercise.
"We work on performing our floor routines versus doing a floor routine-they're two totally different things," she said. Also competing for Niwot at regionals were junior Zoey Stowe and freshman Madison Sloane. "For some, it comes naturally and for some it doesn't, and Savannah is very in tune with the judges, and she's trying to show it off and have fun out there too. She knows what she needs to do in order to put up the score she wants, but she's genuinely having fun and enjoying it."
The Cougars earned top scores in the beam and floor rotations at the regional, a result consistent with their performance during the season, according to Purcell. That's also her expectation for the state meet, though her team's affinity for the beam has defied expectations so far.
"We didn't go six of six, but we stuck five out of six, and it was good to see the team come together and perform in the third rotation," she said. "They've done a lot of work on beam, and they're more comfortable up there than my past teams. It changes, and the beam has not always been our number one, so it's interesting that it would be now. We've also been scoring really well on floor, as a whole. But bars is definitely at the lowest end of where we are now."
On Nov. 8 at Thornton High School, Purcell and the Cougars will get the chance to defend their 2018 state title, a daunting task under any circumstances, but made more difficult this year by the team's lack of postseason experience. However, the coach said she has been watching her young team "progress and mature" throughout 2019, and believes they have found the final pieces of the puzzle.
"Their scores have fluctuated throughout the season-we've kind of gone up, and we've kind of gone down-but I don't think we've peaked yet," Purcell said. "For me, my expectations are for them to go out and not only start strong, but also finish strong. We can anticipate mistakes because we won't be perfect, but they can pick themselves up and finish the meet as a team and to the best of their ability."
That said, Purcell added that her team's youth doesn't exempt them from the high standards set by previous Niwot state gymnastics teams.
"We don't go out and perform skills that we're not ready to do. We don't go out there and just do it. We are out there, and they are on this varsity team because we're critiquing every single point...We want all of that put together, as well as being positive for one another, and showing good sportsmanship towards other teams in the gym. They know...that when we walk into a gym, that we care about our sport and are proud to be performing it... They represent Niwot gymnastics, they represent their home school, and they represent their district."