When it comes to keeping up tradition, the Overland co-op gymnastics team has it down pat.
Passing things on from year to year is the biggest key to how the Trailblazers — who meld gymnasts from five of the six schools in the Cherry Creek School District — are annually one of Colorado’s best teams.
Head coach Lisa Sparrow and assistant Alan Herron have put in place and reinforced team traditions and levels of expectations for nearly two decades that make it likely success will continue in the 2019 campaign.
“We have a lot of new girls; about 50 percent of our team is new and that usually isn’t the case,” Sparrow said. “But we have a lot of returning girls who are fully invested in who we are and what we do. So we’ll be teaching the new ones the system and the way we do things.”
The way Overland has done things has brought it three straight runner-up finishes behind powerhouse Pomona at the Class 5A state gymnastics meet, which followed a stretch of four state championships between 2009 and 2014.
To keep up that standard, the Trailblazers will have to fill in the spots vacated by five gymnasts that performed at least one routine at last season’s state meet in Elena Reiffin, Delenn Steffes, Josie Claycamp, Natalie Wilson and Aaliyah Jamison. Steffes and Jamison each were in the top 10 in the all-around competition at state last year.
The half-new Overland team for 2019 includes gymnasts from the host school as well as Cherokee Trail, Eaglecrest, Grandview and Smoky Hill.
There is experience, especially in four-year varsity gymnast Sam Demoss (Eaglecrest), along with juniors Mabry Robinson (Smoky Hill) and Bailey Rodriguez (Eaglecrest), who each begin their third seasons as regular contributors.
Demoss placed in the all-around competition at the state meet for the first time last season with a third-place finish. The two gymnasts in front of her — Lakewood’s Amber Boll, who recorded a perfect 10 at state last year and won all four individual event finals, and runner-up Brooke Weiss of Pomona — both graduated.
“I hate to make a speculation like that (about Demoss winning the all-around), but she’s talented and has big skills,” Sparrow said, noting an increased difficulty on uneven bars could be Demoss’s key.
Robinson and Rodriguez appeared in a combined three individual event finals last season. Both qualified for the finals in the balance beam and Robinson added an appearance in the floor exercise.
The trio of juniors Kate Decker, Reilly Cornelius and Autumn Ivester — all from Cherokee Trail — are expected to fill expanded roles for Sparrow’s team, while freshman Mattea Dolan (Grandview) and Sydnie Bernard (Cherokee Trail) will have a definite impact.
Despite the changes, Sparrow feels like Overland is in a good spot going into the new season.
“Our girls have their skills and we’re further along than we’ve been in season’s past,” Sparrow said. “We’re competition ready, so the majority of the season will be cleaning things up and polishing routines.”
Overland’s season will remain as usual, with top competitions scheduled at the Loveland Invitational, Broomfield Invitational and Cherry Creek Invitational, along with its own Overland Invitational Sept. 21.
As usual, the Trailblazers will host one of three 5A regional meets as well, this one scheduled for Nov. 1, less than a week before the state meet Nov. 7 & 9 at Thornton High School.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports