THORNTON — It starts with a pirouette, then a jump, then a tumble. Her floor routine was a mix of lovely grace and power, but after two days of long competition Chatfield senior Emily Barber’s body was fatigued and shaky, and it showed in her landings.
Competition in the 5A state gymnastics division is nothing if not fierce, especially with girls such as Claire Hammen from Loveland, who placed first in every single event last year bagging an impressive 39.225 points — the most in Colorado high school gymnastics history.
This year, Hammen didn’t sweep state — she, too, was fatigued. But she still helped her team by taking third in the all-around with 38.375 points, behind only Rocky Mountain High School’s Keri Peel (first with 38.925) and Lauren Glover (second with 38.750) at Thornton High School on Nov. 2-3.
“My landings (were) wobbly. It was a long day yesterday and I am tired, but I think I am doing well,” Barber said after coming off the mat for her floor routine. Barber placed 18th in the all-around with 36.775.
In the team competition, Chatfield came in seventh with 178.25 points. Broomfield won with 187.625, while Fort Collins was second with 183.85.
Chatfield’s Amanda Clements came in 34th with 35.375 points, while Madison Petri was 41st with 34.85.
Day one’s competition lasted 12 hours, and the girls had to be right back at it the next day fresh and ready to go.
State championships can be a pressure cooker — bringing out the best in some and making others crumble into an emotional blob. Fellow Chatfield senior Nichole Hagen was feeling Barber’s fatigue, and it showed after she came off the bars — her final event of state competition.
As soon as she stuck her triple-back tuck landing from the bars her mouth formed in a perfect “O.” Her routine was beautifully executed, but it seemed like she was surprised she stuck the landing.
“No, I wasn’t surprised, just excited. I knew I did well, and I was glad it was over, but then when I walked over to Emily (Barber) and she put her arms around me she said ‘That was the last time you will ever salute the judges’ and it hit me,” Hagen said.
Both girls stood in a quaky embrace, sobbing with relief that for better or worse it was over. Their career as high school gymnasts was over. Hagen and Barber both graduate in May.
For Barber, the ride was fun and she knows that her shelf-life as a gymnast is up, but for Hagen the reality that she might not get a chance to compete again was overwhelming.
Through their tears both girls looked over at the judges to see Hagen’s scores. The physical fatigue coupled with the mental exhaustion of enduring their long season sunk in fully once Hagen came off the bars and the score-holders flashed the 9.500 score. Hagen, Barber and head coach Chanel Chavez lit up, rejoicing in her achievement and in the finality of the moment.
“It has been amazing to see these girls progress the way they have, come out here and hold their own against some tough teams. I am so proud of all of my girls,” Chavez said.
“I left it all out there. No regrets,” Hagen said. “(Gymnastics) has been a second home for me and it is hard to come to grips with ‘I’m done,’ and I don’t necessarily want to be done.”