Gymnasts join together from all around

South metro's co-op squads make for unique friendships

Jim Benton
Ponderosa's Paige Dickman, a freshman from Legend, is poised to begin her high school career.
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McKenna Moede sometimes has trouble explaining the postflight twists and flips involved in her vaulting routine.

She has even more trouble telling schoolmates for whom and where she competes as a high school gymnast.

Moede, a senior at Legend, competes mainly in the vault and beam for the Ponderosa gymnastics team.

Like all four south metro girls gymnastics teams, Ponderosa is a co-op squad with gymnasts coming from Ponderosa, Legend, Chaparral, Douglas County, Castle View and SkyView Academy.

“We don't get a lot of recognition,” said Moede. “A lot of people from my school don't even know we have a gymnastics team. I have to explain we have to go to Ponderosa and they're like, `oh, well, that's kind of like a rival school.' So we don't get as much support as we'd like. Not a lot of people from our school come to our meets.”

However, it is still fun for Moede to have a high school team on which to compete.

“It's a little different but it's a lot of fun, meeting a lot of girls from different schools,” she said. “It's fun to come to practice and see a lot of new faces, get to go to meets together. It's hard not to see them at school but there are seven from my school going over to Ponderosa. It's fun to see them in the halls and drive over together.

“They do include us at Legend when we have pep assemblies and it's nice to be in them. When we have state meets, we get out of school early and we are recognized in the announcements.”

Ponderosa was 10th at last year's state meet. The team's top returning gymnasts are seniors Cara Redalen and Moede. Both are three-time state qualifiers. Redalen was one of Ponderosa' top floor exercise scorers all last season while Moede is a standout on the beam and vault.

Junior Katie Steward was the Mustangs top all-around performer a year ago.

“Our skill level is the highest we have had in 10 years,” said Ponderosa coach Lisa Fischer. “A talented sophomore class, led by Jordyn Miller and Calista Hill, is coming in seasoned with a year of high school competition under their belts and they are driven. … Our freshmen will be key contributors to the varsity this season. Our strongest events will be bars and floor.”

Cherry Creek draws gymnasts from three schools including Grandview and Smoky Hill. The Bruins were third in the state meet last season but have two state runner-up finishes and two regional titles in the last four seasons.

Cheri Way Steffes, a former Alabama All-American and University of Denver assistant, is the new Creek coach and has liked what she has seen early this season.

“We have looked great,” said Steffes. “I'm going to stay positive. It's my first year. I have been watching Creek gymnastics for 20 years, back in the days when I started coaching in Colorado.”

Seniors Alaina Bolton, Rachel Wong and Mya Dodd, who attend Creek, and Grandview senior Elise Shalowitz will be the ringleaders for this year's Bruins. Junior Avery Paxton and sophomore Katie Mancini return from last season and the Bruins also will have transfers, sophomore Lauren Walker and freshman Samantha Simon, on the team.

“We have a lot of unsung heroes behind that lineup,” said Steffes.

Rock Canyon draws gymnasts from Mountain Vista, Rock Canyon, Highlands Ranch and ThunderRidge. Last season three Jaguars qualified individually for the state meet.

Second-year head coach Vickie Frenzer will have a team led by all-around senior captains Kayti Conger and Taylor Krason. Sophomore Natalie Smith is expected to be a standout as a floor specialist along with Mikayla Valentine on the beam.

“Our numbers have increased dramatically from last year, allowing us to have both JV and varsity rosters which is very exciting for the program,” said Frenzer. “Rock Canyon has a strong, young team and I am excited to watch (the girls) continue to grow as young women and athletes through the upcoming season. They have a lot of talent and I can't wait to see what they do with it.”

At Heritage, first-year coach Megan Kling has five returning gymnasts and the Eagles, with student athletes coming from mainly Heritage, Arapahoe and Littleton, will also compete with a junior varsity team as well as a varsity at some meets this season.

“The program is small but we always have girls with huge goals and great attitudes,” said Kling. “The girls drive me to always make the program bigger and better.”