THORNTON | Lisa Sparrow loves her fellow coaches and athletes on the Overland co-op gymnastics team, so she relished springing a delightful surprise Nov. 2.
After her team delivered an outstanding performance at Thornton High School that seemed like it had come up just short of landing a trophy, the Trailblazers’ coach got clued into a secret by an official from the Colorado High School Activities Association.
Sparrow and her staff believed some struggles on the team’s final event — the vault — had likely dropped Overland into third place behind leader Mountain Range and Broomfield. But she was informed that her team had the exact same score as the Eagles (181.375) and both teams would get a trophy. Sparrow chose to keep it to herself until the public announcement.
“I went back to the bleachers and just sat there with my secret for a few minutes, so that was really fun,” Sparrow said. “We had told them after the vault that they’d had a great meet, but we were probably going to be in third place. It was a great way to finish because we’ve had a lot of adversity this year.
“I’m glad we finished in the top two, because third place doesn’t really get you anything.”
Ties in team scores at the state gymnastics meet are quite rare, but Sparrow and Overland have now done it two years in a row.
Last season, the Trailblazers and Arvada West finished with identical scores, but that was for fourth place. Sparrow is on CHSAA’s gymnastics committee and there was discussion about what a tiebreaker would, but nothing materialized from the discussion.
Ironically enough, it happened again, but in a good way.
The announcement definitely took the Overland gymnasts by surprise.
“The guy called third place and there were four teams left, so we were lost and we were like ‘what about us?” senior Kyla Burke said. “Then it was announced that we tied for second. We tied with Arvada West last year, so that part wasn’t new. At least we didn’t lose by a little bit, but it was a little disappointing that one less step or one missed vault could have been the difference between us not tying.
“Overall, I’m really proud of our performance. Our goal was to do our best for ourselves, but make the other teams beat us.”
Overland — which has six state championships that ties it for fourth all-time among Colorado programs — hadn’t brought home hardware from the state meet since 2020, as it finished sixth in 2021 and tied for fourth last season.
The Trailblazers ended up with a rotation that suited them perfectly, allowing them to start strong on balance beam, move to uneven bars, then the floor exercise and finish on the vault.
“We were super pumped because that was the rotation we hoped to get,” Sparrow said.
Junior Maia Howell set a good tone leading off on the beam and Overland earned a score of 45.625 on the event, then garnered 43.750 on the uneven bars, where Sparrow said the Trailblazers’ degree of difficulty across the board is slightly lower than other teams.
A meet-best score of 46.775 on the floor exercise put Overland in prime position to finish alone in second, but a 45.225 on the vault — where they missed Emeley Brain, a state-experienced gymnast who tore her ACL prior to the season — left a bit of a sour taste.
Sparrow could hear the raucous reactions of the Broomfield team across the gym as the Eagles closed with a strong set that appeared it might have been enough to surpass Overland.
But in the end, things turned out very well as the Trailblazers got to take home the runner-up trophy — with another going to Broomfield, which won back-to-back state championships in 2021 and 2022, at a later time — had two gymnasts in the top seven of the all-around (sophomore Ainsley Renner in third and Burke in seventh) and had four gymnasts (Renner, Burke, senior Maya Richman and junior Audrey Cox) qualify for at least one of the Nov. 4 individual event finals.
Renner — who missed most of last season due to injury and returned in time to compete in one event at state — earned a score of 37.500 in the all-around competition to come in behind Lakewood’s Lauren Burt (38.850) and Mountain Range’s Frankie MaCaskill (38.200). Burke achieved a season-best score of 37.075 to finish seventh.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Twitter/X: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2023 CLASS 5A STATE GYMNASTICS MEET
Nov. 2 at Thornton H.S.
Team scores: 1. Mountain Range 184.425 points; T2. OVERLAND 181.375; T2. Broomfield 181.375; 4. Pomona 179.050; 5. Ponderosa 175.425; 6. Chatfield 174.525; 7. Arvada West 174.225; 8. Heritage 172.125; 9. Poudre School District 171.675; 10. Cherry Creek 170.000; 11. Columbine 118.675; 12. Lakewood 96.500; 13. Thornton 71.225
All-around (top five): 1. Lauren Burt (Lakewood), 38.850 points; 2. Frankie MaCaskill (Mountain Range), 38.200; 3. AINSLEY RENNER (OVERLAND), 37.500; 4. Addy Brodie (Pomona), 37.400; T5. Layla Petz (Arvada West), 37.375; T5. Averie Hull (Pomona), 37.375. Vault (top five): 1. Lauren Burt (Lakewood), 9.900; 2. Frankie MaCaskill (Mountain Range), 9.850; 3. Addy Brodie (Pomona), 9.550; T4. AINSLEY RENNER (OVERLAND), 9.450; T4. Averie Hull (Pomona), 9.450. Uneven bars (top five): 1. Lauren Burt (Lakewood), 9.675; 2. Layla Petz (Arvada West), 9.600; 3. Frankie MaCaskill (Mountain Range), 9.500; 4. Sylvie Frisbie (Mountain Range), 9.400; 5. Ashten Blackstock (Mountain Range), 9.200. Balance beam (top five): 1. Lauren Burt (Lakewood), 9.675; 2. Averie Hull (Pomona), 9.475; 3. AINSLEY RENNER (OVERLAND), 9.450; 4. Addy Brodie (Pomona), 9.425; T5. Madeline Domenico (Mountain Range), 9.375; T5. Layla Petz (Arvada West), 9.375; T5. Samantha Zakhem (Columbine), 9.375; T5. Avery Kang (Broomfield), 9.375. Floor exercise: 1. Frankie MaCaskill (Mountain Range), 9.700; 2. Addy Brodie (Pomona), 9.625; 3. Lauren Burt (Lakewood), 9.600; T4. AINSLEY RENNER (OVERLAND), 9.550; T4. Mia Ritchie (Broomfield), 9.550
Full Class 5A state gymnastics team competition results, here