THORNTON — The state championship hung in the balance and — after Elizabeth had a performance worth smiling about on the beam — the Cardinals laid claim to their fourth title in gymnastics.
On top of that, Elizabeth junior Anastasia Buzalsky won the all-around individual state championship.
Oh, and the program has only been in existence since 2006. In that short time frame, the Cardinals have snatched crowns in 2009, 2010, 2012, and now 2017. They have also garnered four runner-up trophies and had two other all-around winners (Katie Cordova in 2009 and Kimmy Peterson in 2012).
The tradition of excellence continued Friday at the Class 4A state meet with a winning margin of 179.150-176.750 over Niwot. But, it didn’t come without a sprinkle of adversity.
After the first rotation, Niwot (89.625) took a lead on Elizabeth (87.45) on the strength of solid performances in the floor (44.85) and vault (44.775) competitions. Elizabeth countered with a 44.475 in floor, but struggled in bars with a 42.975. In fact, the Cardinals only had two finishers in the top 15 in that discipline.
That’s when Elizabeth had to deliver on their motto.
“Our motto all season has been ‘get gritty’ and we’ve been talking a lot about the definition of grit and what it means to you, what it means to our team,” Stacey Folmar, the program’s head coach since the beginning, said. “After beam, it was clear they got it. They did what they needed to do when it mattered most.”
In the balance beam, grit meshed with skill as Elizabeth swept the top four places with Rachel Jorgensen (9.375), Aliyah Antunez (9.325), Austin Coleman (9.300), and Emily Schaefer (9.200) all stepping up. Just before the beam, Anastasia Buzalsky (9.575, 1st) led a group of five finishers in the top 15 in the vault exercise.
It all added up to another glistening piece of hardware to bring back to a proud community.
“Elizabeth is so great about supporting us,” Folmar said. “For a small town, they’re a gymnastics town when it comes to this time of the year. It’s so gratifying for us to bring it back to them.”
It may not have been done without the addition of Buzalsky, a super talent who burst onto the high school scene for the first time after spending previous years only competing in club. The junior has certainly embraced the team atmosphere.
“I didn’t really have a team before,” she said. “This has been one of the best experiences. It means everything.”
Buzalsky struggled in bars and beam by her lofty standards, but finished first in floor (9.550) and vault. She was the only competitor to rack up a score above 37 in the all-around total as her 37.125 outdid Niwot’s Lindsay Chohon (36.675). Green Mountain’s Ramya Sinha (36.250) and Emily Graham (36.225) earned third and fourth place, respectively.
Folmar had the chance to coach Buzalsky at a young age and noticed her bright future right away.
“I knew from the time she was nine years old that she is amazing,” Folmar said. “She can be in bed sleeping, wake up, walk out and lay a dismount. We knew right off the bat she was going to be a huge factor for our team.”
Green Mountain, Rampart, and Pueblo Central rounded out the top five in the standings.
The 4A and 5A state meet will continue on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Those who finished in the top 15 in any of the four disciplines will have the opportunity to compete for individual crowns.