There's something missing from Denver East gymnastics' varsity roster. The Angels lack seniors. But what they don't lack is talent.
Head coach Shauna Shaw finds her 2017 team is loaded with something every coach in every sport yearns for: talented underclassmen.
Shaw's roster consists of 13 names. All but two of them are either freshmen or sophomores. And perhaps more exciting, they have a range of talent that she hopes can put the entire team at the state gymnastics meet in November.
"I think what excites me the most is that they’re so young so it’s going to be easier to mold them," Shaw said. "They don’t have any expectations about what the team is supposed to be like. What I also like is that there are no expectations for East High School and the gymnastics program as far we’re not an Overland or Cherry Creek or Pomona. Nobody expects East to have amazing gymnastics."
From her eyes and the eyes of her girls, this could very well be the year that East stands out with the best.
It won't happen overnight as these girls need to adapt from the world of club gymnastics where they normally compete. There are advantages and disadvantages from making that adjustment. The pressure of competing might not be as intimidating for them, but it's also uncertain how they'll adjust from competing for just them to competing for the team.
"We’ve really been working on team bonding and working together as a team and trying to realize that in high school gymnastics, it’s more of a team sport than an individual sport," Shaw said. "(I enjoy) being able to teach the girls that it’s not about them anymore, it’s about the school and how they plan to leave their legacy as a team member in the years to follow."
The team took to the Columbine Invitational last week for its first event. And with it being the first competition of the year, Shaw was a little unsure of what to expect, but couldn't have been happier with the results.
From a team standpoint, the performance was better than it was a year ago, indicating that the team is certainly trending in the right direction.
"We had already picked up our score 13 points from last year, which is certainly a big improvement for gymnastics in general," she said.
Individually, she was very impressed with freshman Quinn Bianucci who placed in the top-10 in the all-around. Shaw was quick to point out that she didn't hit all the events that she could have, but still scored well.
Sophomore Chloe Brown was also impressive.
"I believe she can even make it to the finals for state," Shaw said.
Even if they stumble a bit, the Angels are in a fortunate position considering the youth of the team. The full roster should return next year, so they can spend 2017 setting the table for long-term success.
With little expectations, for the program Shaw believes that no one has seen what her group of girls has to offer.
And they're just getting started.