Pomona claims fifth straight 5A state gymnastics title

(Paul Soriano)

THORNTON — Pomona finished on the floor but still crashed through the ceiling.

The Class 5A Panthers made history Thursday night, becoming the first large-classification team to win five-straight state gymnastics championships.

And for the fourth-straight year, Pomona edged Overland (188.550-187.525) to keep hold of its crown.

For head coach Tracey Boychuk, it’s an ending that will never get old.

“Every year is so different and so special,” she revealed. “The no-quit in these girls is amazing. We’ve had so many injuries, and we’ve had pneumonia. We’ve had so much to fight through this year, and these girls were not going to let themselves be disappointed walking out of here tonight.”

Through three rotations, the Panthers led the Trailblazers by less than one point (141.55-140.65). But in its final event of the night, the floor exercise, Pomona electrified the standing-room-only crowd with a score of 47.000.

Overland, meanwhile, finished the competition with a score of 46.875 on the balance beam.

The Panthers were led by senior Kaylie Berens, who won the all-around title for the second time in her illustrious career with a score of 38.825. She finished first in both the vault (9.800) and the beam (9.675), second in the uneven bars (9.675) and third in the floor exercise (9.675).

Berens’ performance also helped to erase bittersweet memories of the 2018 season, when an injury during warmups at the state meet kept her from competing.

“Throughout my whole high school career, it has always been about the team,” she admitted. “Last year it was really hard for me to not help the team. But coming out tonight and being 100 percent was such an amazing feeling; it was so different from last year.”

But Berens, who captured the all-around title as a sophomore in 2017, shrugged off any mention of her personal accomplishments.

“I didn’t come into this thinking about the individual (title) whatsoever,” she confessed. “I really, really was all about the team. I wanted to get the five-peat. That’s all I wanted, and it’s awesome. It’s such an amazing feeling to win the all-around as well, but tonight was definitely more for the team than anything else.”

And after the night ended with yet another state championship victory — not to mention the seventh all-around title in school history — Boychuk marveled at her star’s unselfishness.

“I talked to Kaylie before the meet about it, and she said ‘I don’t really care about the all-around. Winning the team title is all I am really focused on,’ said Boychuk. “I think that’s just the icing on the cake for all of us. She did a great job … a great job.”

Pomona junior Mia Tims finished second in the all-around competition with a score of 38.700, while teammate Kalise Newson, a senior, finished tied for third in the all-around with a score of 38.200. Julia Butler, another senior, placed 11th with a score of 35.925.

Tims won the uneven bars with a score of 9.825, finished second in the vault (9.750) and placed third in the beam (9.600). Newson finished second in the beam (9.625) and was fourth in the vault (9.675).

“They were focused and they hit everything,” Boychuk said. “They did everything I could have ever asked them to do.”

Overland had four gymnasts in the top-nine of the all-around competition. Mabry Robinson, who earned the high-score of the evening (9.950) in the floor exercise, tied for third place with a score of 38.200. Mattea Dolan finished sixth (37.900), Samantha Demoss was seventh (37.450) and Bailey Rodriguez finished ninth (36.825).

University holds the small-classification record with seven consecutive state championships from 1979-1985.

Next season, Pomona will hope to inch a little closer to that milestone at the 2020 state championship meet.

“Refocusing every year is key,” said Boychuk of the Panthers’ dominating run. “That’s something that as a coaching staff we work really hard on every year. It has been a different top six every year. The first year that we won (2015) these girls weren’t even in high school yet. They came in as freshmen and were like ‘OK, we’re going to do this.’ I have 10 seniors on the team this year, and they were not going to let this not happen.”

Added Berens: “I definitely had the time of my life (this season). I enjoy doing gymnastics so much, and it’s just so much fun to be out here. Doing it for the team, and doing it for yourself … it’s unbelievable. It was a long, hard year. We had a multitude of injuries. One of our best girls had pneumonia a week ago. I was home sick yesterday. We had to fight a lot. That’s the thing with our team: we all know how to pull together when it’s needed.”