The bar (and bars) will be a lot higher for the Overland gymnastics team this week.
Coming off a regional championship-winning performance that coach Lisa Sparrow thought was a bit down because of the lack of a real challenger, the Trailblazers — a co-op team of gymnasts from schools all around Aurora — aim to get back on track at the Nov. 2-4 Class 5A state meet.
Overland dipped a bit from the high scores it had been putting up in recent weeks, but still handily won the regional championship on its home floor with a score of 184.725 points. Sparrow is eager to see what her team is capable of when the best of the best get together at Thornton High School.
“Part of the problem at regional was there was not a lot of competition and they knew that, so to get them pumped up, focused and intense was a little bit tougher,” Sparrow said. “But the girls have been working extremely hard all season. It’s one of the hardest working teams I’ve ever coached and their hard work is paying off.
“I’m super excited for Thursday to go head-to-head against the best teams in the state.”
For the second year in a row, the 5A state meet has a two-day format, which opens with the team competition on Nov. 2 (competition begins at 4 p.m.) and concludes with the individual event finals — for the top 15 individuals in each event — at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 4.
Overland goes in as the second seed behind Pomona, the two-time defending state champion which dropped a regional score of 188.
The Panthers — who thrive on a few outstanding individuals —finished in front of the Trailblazers at the state meet last season and again go in as the favorite, however Sparrow believes her team can make a run at winning its fifth state title in the last nine years.
As healthy as its possibly ever been going into the state meet, Overland will employ a lineup of four seniors, five juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen.
Sophomore Sam Demoss (Eaglecrest) tied for fifth in the all-around competition last season and may be the only one to compete in all events again.
Senior Christie Yee (Cherokee Trail) is the defending state champion in the floor exercise — the team’s highest-scoring event this season — while juniors Delenn Steffes (Overland), Natalie Wilson (Vista PEAK), Elena Reiffin (Cherokee Trail) and Josie Claycamp (Early Colleges) are others with significant state experience.
Senior Mackenzie French (Cherokee Trail), juniors Claycamp, Reiffin and Wilson, sophomore Annabelle Pedderson (Smoky Hill) and Demoss all qualified for and competed in individual event finals last season, while Steffes advanced in three events, but had to withdraw due to an injury suffered in warmups.
Sparrow can always find positives about the state rotation her team gets, but she’s bullish on this season’s order, which has the Trailblazers starting to the balance beam, moving quickly to the uneven bars and finishing with the floor and vault.
“If I had to pick a rotation for our team, this would be one of my favorites,” Sparrow said. “There are pros and cons to each one, but we do better with a slow event followed by a quick one. We’ll just have a short breather after beam before we are up on bars.”
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel