Summit High gymnastics preview |

Summit High gymnastics preview

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Summit County, Colorado

Summit Daily file photo/Mark Fox

FARMER’S KORNER – A year ago, the Tigers could have considered themselves overachievers. Summit had only 11 gymnasts on its roster, but despite a slew of injuries, was still able to reach the state meet for the seventh straight year, finishing sixth overall.

This year’s a different story, and the Tigers know it.

Summit returns every single gymnast from last year’s squad and has added a couple strong, new competitors to the lineup.

Now, in a sport that leaves athletes on the brink of failure with every twist, turn and jump of a routine, the Tigers realize the pressure is on.

“We all go in knowing that we can mess up, but all you can do is try your best,” senior captain Gabi Ketzenbarger said. “Everyone has off days. There’s always meets that you won’t do as well.”

“You just can’t tear yourself apart every time it happens,” fellow senior and captain Anne DeJulio added. ” … You have to a have a good attitude.”

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And that’s something head coach Lauren Johnson said the Tigers have in spades this fall. That and a whole lot of talent.

DeJulio and Ketzenbarger headline a group that includes a handful of state qualifiers: seniors Jordan Smith – who made the individual state finals in vault last year – and Haley Harvey, juniors Rachel Lawlis and Emily Johnson and sophomores Arielle Falcone and Abby Akers.

To top all of it off, the Tiger coach expects new senior Kirsten Cooley and junior Aylin Tuna – a foreign-exchange student from Germany – to be top contributors to the team. And two new freshmen – Tessa Gunnin and Hannah Hart – should also provide some solid scores.

“I think we have tons of potential, tons and tons of potential,” said Johnson, who’s entering her third season as head coach.

On the line this year is Summit’s streak of state-tourney appearances, something Johnson helped start as a senior gymnast for the Tigers in 2002.

Although, simply making it to state might not be good enough for Johnson’s group this year. They have their sights set a bit higher.

“Last year at state was our high point, and we want to do better than that,” DeJulio said. “If we improve our scores each meet, that’ll be good.”

And that’s the Tigers’ goal early on, as gymnastics teams rarely start hitting their highest scores until late in the season.

In order to qualify for the state meet as a team, the Tigers need to finish among the top-8 teams overall in the state rankings, taken from an average of each team’s three highest scores on the season.

Johnson doesn’t expect her team to be hitting those type of numbers early in the year.

The Tigers had their first meet of the season Thursday night at Elizabeth High School. (*Due to deadline restrictions, the recap of the meet will be in Saturday’s SDN.)

“We still have a lot of work to do,” the coach said. “I can’t remember a year where it wasn’t like that, though.”

With Thursday’s meet and another meet at Lakewood on Tuesday, the Tigers won’t get much practicing in the early going of the season. So, Johnson expects her team to start “hitting its stride” once the third meet of the season (Sept. 15 at home) rolls around.

From there, she expects them to improve each time they hit the mats.

After all, the Tigers may have one of the top lineups in the state.

“It’s very exciting. I don’t want to get too excited, because I haven’t seen what the other teams have in terms of freshmen and new members,” Johnson said. “But just on the knowledge of what I have from last year of the league, I think we’re going to do really well this year.”

All that’s left is for the Tigers to go out and do it.

“Last year, we were able to start at a certain point and improve our score every single meet throughout the season,” Johnson said. “If we can do that again, I think we’ll be on track to be one of the top-ranked teams this year.

“It’s just a matter of how hard they’re able to work and how hard they push themselves. If they put their minds to it, they could achieve some really good stuff.”