Liberty Patriots gymnastics team defeats Bellevue Wolverines

December 18, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Tia Riley, Liberty High School senior, poses on the balance beam, earning a score of 7.8 Dec. 13 against Bellevue. By Christina Corrales-Toy

It is easy to spot the Liberty High School gymnastics team among a crowded gymnasium filled with fans, coaches and other competitors.

Just look for the team with the fewest members, clad in the Patriots’ customary blue and green.

Liberty had easily the smallest team in the Mount Si High School gymnasium, which hosted a Dec. 13 meet between the Patriots and Bellevue.

“It’s kind of hard at first because other teams have 60 people,” Liberty captain Tia Riley said. “Us only having 13 people is more of a struggle, but in the end I feel like it’s almost better, because by the end of the season we’re all best friends, and I feel like that’s harder when you have a huge team.”

The Patriots didn’t let their lack of numbers hold them back at the meet, defeating Bellevue, 129.9-122.

Liberty relied heavily on its senior captains Riley and Shawna Sarrett, who both placed in the top four in the all-around. Riley tied for second overall with a score of 30.65, while Sarrett came in fourth with a score of 30.

“Today, they stepped it up,” Liberty coach Lori Copenhaver said of Riley and Sarrett’s performance. “I thought their performances were much better than they’ve had all year.”

A humble Riley said she wasn’t completely satisfied with her performance, even though the Liberty captain took first place on the vault and the bars, and finished no worse than fourth on the balance beam and the floor exercise.

“This meet wasn’t my best, but I’m happy with it,” she said. “I had decent routines this meet.”

Sarrett took first place, in a tie with Riley, on the bars with a score of 6.2. She also placed fourth on the vault and balance beam, and took home third place on the floor exercise.

Up next

Liberty vs. Sammamish

  • 7 p.m. Dec. 20
  • Sammamish High School
  • 100 140th Ave. S.E., Bellevue

Liberty also had strong performances from Candace Baltazar and Helena Frestadius, who placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in the all-around.

“I think the team did really good tonight,” Copenhaver said. “Every week, they are getting better. I was very proud of the girls, you know, I thought they had one of the best routines for the year so far, so I’m happy the way things are going.”

This year’s Patriots squad is dominated by freshman, Copenhaver said, so she looks often to Riley and Sarrett to lead the team.

“We have mostly freshman, so the girls really look up to Tia and Shawna, and they try to implement what they are doing,” she said. “They are very good leaders as far as encouraging the other girls and helping them out.”

In what will be their final year of competition, Sarrett and Riley said the ultimate goal is to make it to state.

“Both of us have been doing gymnastics almost our whole lives and just thinking about this is the last time we’ll ever be doing it, it’s really sad, but we’re trying to make the best of this year,” Riley said.

And it looks like Liberty indeed has the strength to send several to state this year, Sarrett said.

“This always happens, like at the beginning of the year it’s always hard, but at the end of the year we always end up being one of the better teams, and we have a lot of people making it to state,” she said. “I think by the end of this season, everyone is going to have improved a lot.”

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