Gymnastics: Overland turns page after another state title

Devin Bundas
Senior Devin Bundas, left, returns to the Overland co-op gymnastics team in 2014 after winning the individual Class 5A state championship in the floor exercise last season. The Eaglecrest High School student is a four-year varsity gymnast who should help the Trailblazers contend for what would be their fourth 5A state team title in six seasons. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

When she first took over as head coach of the Overland gymnastics team, Lisa Sparrow had the pressure of following up a state championship-winning season.

Sparrow is faced with the same proposition ahead of the 2014 season after the Trailblazers took last season’s Class 5A crown — their third title in the past five seasons — but she’s developed a new perspective on the situation.

“My first year as head coach, we were coming off a championship and that was a lot of stress,” said Sparrow, who took the reins in 2012 from Alan Herron, who is now her assistant. “Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned that every season is new and what happened the season before is irrelevent. This is a whole new team and a new group of girls. Our biggest goal this season is to compete to complete.”

While it is a new season for Overland — a co-op team that features gymnasts from schools all over Aurora and the surrounding area — there are several holdovers who have risen to the occasion in big meets in the past and carry that over into this season.

Two strong leaders graduated in Aimee St. Martin and Ashlynn Graybill, but seniors Kellyn Toole (Regis Jesuit) and Devin Bundas (Eaglecrest) return and have been keys to the team for four years.

Bundas recovered from injury to win an individual state championship in the floor exercise and is again on the mend after offseason ankle surgery, while she also placed second on the uneven bars last season.

Toole — a multi-sport athlete who is also a diver and competes in track & field — is a strong leader in addition to her solid all-around contributions. She’s looking to follow a season in which she finished second behind Bundas in the floor exercise and fifth in the vault.

Madie Venegas, McKenna Turbyne
Sophomores Madie Venegas, left, and McKenna Turbyne, center, should be signficant contributors to the Overland co-op gymnastics team in 2004. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Sophomores McKenna Turbyne and Madie Venegas contributed greatly to Overland’s success last season and both look significantly improved coming into the new season.

Turbyne qualified for the individual event finals in three events in 2013, placing highest on the balance beam (fourth), and she was the individual state champion in the Colorado Association of Recreational Athletics (CARA) league in the offseason.

Freshmen Christie Yee and MacKenzie French (both from Cherokee Trail) and Emily Shelest of Strasburg each have event specialties that should be major pluses at meets for the Trailblazers.

Sparrow’s biggest adjustment comes on her gymnasts’ beam routines, as a rule change requires a back tuck to be included in the routine and not on the dismount, as it had been in the past.

“I’m very optimistic about the talent we have on this team, but we have a lot of work to do to get to the end of the season,” said Sparrow, whose team will play host to one of three Class 5A regional meets on Oct. 25, a week before the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 5A state meet at Thornton High School.

“If the girls put in the work, we have the capability for a great ending,” she added.

Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel. IG: Auroraprepsentinel


Key dates: Aug. 11 — Practice begins; Aug. 21 — First contest allowed; Sept. 5 — Loveland Invitational; Sept. 20 — Overland Invitational; Oct. 13 — 5A/4A regional seeding meeting; Oct. 25 — 5A/4A regionals; Oct. 31-Nov. 1 — 5A/4A state championship meet at Thornton High School

Gymnasts to watch: Devin Bundas, Overland (Eaglecrest), sr.; MacKenzie French, Overland (Cherokee Trail), fr.; Emily Shelest, Overland (Strasburg), fr.; Kellyn Toole, Overland (Regis Jesuit), sr.; McKenna Turbyne, Overland (Lutheran), soph.; Madie Venegas, Overland (Valor Christian), soph.; Christie Yee, Overland (Cherokee Trail), fr.