For the last time as Pomona’s head gymnastics coach, Tracey Boychuk stood outside the crowded gym doors Thursday afternoon before the start of the three-day state tournament at Thornton High School.
“I didn’t think I would get that emotional today,” Boychuk said, it being her last state meet as the head coach for the Panthers. “All the good moments. All the bad moments. All the girls. The families. The other coaches. This meet is awesome. You don’t see football coaches out there helping set up the bars. This meet means a lot.”
Boychuk announced earlier this season that this would be her final year guiding the Panthers. Her coaching career started in the early 1990s and she took over Pomona in the mid-1990s.
Pomona became a perennial powerhouse, highlighted by five straight Class 5A state team titles from 2015 to 2019. Boychuk said it was just time to step away as the head coach and she plans on retiring from teaching at Pomona after next school year.
“I don’t want to just walk away from something I built over these years,” Boychuk said about staying on as an assistant coach for Dani Kelly, who will take over the program next season. “I want to be there to help out Dani. She was one of my gymnasts and has been my assistant for so long. She is such a special person. I promised I wouldn’t leave her all by herself that first year.”
Boychuk has numerous major accomplishments during her 33 years at Pomona. The first time she was able to qualify her entire team to the state meet in 1997 was a big benchmark for the program.
“Us being here so much as a team is something I’m really proud of,” Boychuk said of the state meet. “I can remember the first time qualifying as a team. It was so exciting because the team hasn’t been to state since 1978.”
Two years later, Pomona brought home its first hardware. The Panthers were the 5A state runner-up in the team competition behind Loveland in 1999.
“I was really kind of disappointed at first. I really felt like we could have won that meet,” Boychuk said of the first of three state runner-up trophies from 1999 to 2002. “It took me a minute to look back and see what we just did.”
Pomona also had plenty of individual accomplishments during its amazing run from 2014 to 2019. The Panthers captured five individual all-around titles over the six-year span.
Natalie Gillan was the first Pomona gymnast to win the all-around with back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002.
Kelsey Boychuk (Tracey’s daughter) captured back-to-back all-around titles as a freshman and sophomore in 2014 and 2015. Kelsey battled some injuries her final two years at Pomona, but went on to compete for Iowa State University.
After finishing out her college and athletic career last year, Kelsey jumped right into coaching like her mother. Kelsey is currently an assistant coach of the women’s gymnastics program at Simpson College in Iowa.
Brooke Weins won the all-around in 2016 for Pomona. Kaylie Berens (daughter of assistant coach Lisa Berens) took the all-around in 2017 and 2019.
“What was so great about them was they weren’t in it for themselves. They were truly in it for the team,” Boychuk said of her four gymnasts, all-around state champions. “They really didn’t care about how they did individually, as long as the team did well that is all they cared about. They pushed themselves and pushed each other.”
Boychuk had thoughts about stepping down from coaching just before COVID in 2020, but wanted to stay on to help the program maneuver through that tough time.
Pomona had another strong year in 2023 winning its 12th Jeffco League title under Boychuk and finishing fourth in the 5A state team competition Thursday night. Addy Brodie (4th) and Averie Hull (tied 5th) finished in the top-5 in the individual all-around.
“Pomona is a great place. My girls come from everywhere,” Boychuk said. “The one thing that makes me the proudest is inside their Ralston Valley or Golden letter jackets they put that ‘P’ on the inside. They are proud to be a part of this program.”
Kelly’s goal of taking over the program is to be equally successful and keep the expectations high.
“Traditions are huge for our team and school as a whole,” said Kelly, who is a math teacher at Pomona. “Working at Pomona, we really strive to keep those traditions alive over the years.”
The legacy that Boychuk leaves behind will always live on at Pomona.
“I just hope I contributed to the success and building up of young women and women’s sports,” Boychuk said of how she wanted to be remembered. “I hope I have given them something that they can look back on and be proud of and remember fondly.”
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, visit CHSAANow.com.