State gymnastics: Thornton's Hailey Like shines during individual event finals

(Paul Soriano/CHSAANow.com)

THORNTON — Thornton’s Hailey Like put the rest of Class 5A on notice Saturday at the state gymnastics individual event finals.

She’s one of the best in Colorado, and the freshman is not going anywhere anytime soon. 

Two days after finishing fourth in the all-around competition on Thursday night, Like, a student at Horizon who competes with Thornton, finished first in the balance beam (9.625) and the vault (9.725) and finished third in the uneven bars (9.5) and the floor exercise (9.625) as she announced her presence with authority.

The fact that she’s only a freshman is not lost on her, and for a brief moment on Saturday it gave her pause. But not for very long.

“Going into today I felt a little bit nervous because I’m only a freshman and I knew that everybody else here (for finals) is more of an upperclassman,” she admitted. “But going through the meet I realized that even though I am a freshman I can’t be underestimated and that I am as good as all of them.”

You can say that again.

Beam and vault were the two events in 5A’s first rotation, and Like, not to mention the rest of her Thornton teammates, really loved her performances.

She scored a 9.625 in the beam to finish ahead of Overland’s Bailey Rodriguez (9.525), then moved over to the vault, where she scored a 9.725 to finish ahead of Pomona’s Mia Tims (9.65) and Kaylie Berens (9.65), the two-time 5A all-around champion.

“It feels great,” Like said. “I feel really accomplished and I’m glad that my team was here to support me.”

In the second rotation, Like scored a 9.625 in the floor exercise to place third behind champion Mabry Robinson of Overland (9.85) and Berens (9.7). She then scored a 9.5 in the bars to finish behind champion Isabella Gee of Lakewood (9.6) and Kalise Newson (9.525) of Pomona.

“Bars and floor are two of my harder events,” Like revealed.

For Thornton head coach Phil Sailas, the results were not unexpected.

“I knew we had a great chance at winning beam and vault, so it was definitely not a surprise to me for her to do that,” he said. “She’s fantastic. Everything she does, she does well. She’s perfect. She is very meticulous about how she does everything.”

Like is just the third athlete in Thornton history to win a state championship, and the first since Melissa Frank won the all-around crown in 1999. In 1984, Chrys DeAragon captured state in the uneven bars.

Despite being a freshman, Like was ready to roll at the state meet.

“She always has a game-face on. She is always ready to rock and roll. It doesn’t seem like she ever gets rattled,” said Sailas. “To have a gymnast like that … she’s just very precise and has no nerves. That’s want you want out of a gymnast.

“She’s a little rockstar. And she’s a freshman.”

In 4A, Mia Curry of Niwot followed up her all-around championship from Friday night with a first-place finish in the floor exercise on Saturday as she tallied a 9.5 score to finish ahead of of Green Mountain’ Lucy Meinert (9.375) and Emily Kruse (9.3).

“I did super well,” Curry said of her routine. “I went really hard for all of my tumbling passes, and tried to make my leaps as pretty as they could be and my jumps as pretty as they could be. Smiling was key, too. It all happened, and it all paid off.”

“She did great,” said Niwot coach Marisa Purcell. “She’s a sophomore. She’s definitely one of the younger ones on our team. She came out and just gave it her all. I told her just to have fun. She went out and had a blast. She showed everything off. She performed her routine very well.”

In other 4A individual events, Mya Nguyen of Standley Lake won the uneven bars with a score of 9.475, Sarah Hitchcock of Green Mountain captured the vault with a score of 9.5 and Meinert earned the top podium spot in the balance beam with a score of 9.375.