Saving the best for last
February 19, 2013
By Sebastian Moraga
Tia Riley closed her gymnastics career on a major upswing, competing in three disciplines and setting personal bests in two.
The Liberty High School senior’s scores in floor and vault at the state meet in Tacoma surpassed all her marks in prep gymnastics, she said.
She did not qualify for finals, but nobody could call her final meet a failure, not her coach who said that two minor mistakes kept Riley from the floor finals, nor Riley herself.
“I’m happy,” she said. “I’m glad I competed so well in my last meet.”
Coming into the Tacoma Dome, she had expectations that went beyond the judges’ scores. She just wanted to have fun and live it up.
“I did not expect to do as well as I did,” she said.
On floor, she scored a 9.3. On vault, she scored an 8.775. On bars, she scored 6.55.
“Competition was definitely tougher than we expected,” she said. “In other years, I would have made it to finals with those scores, but this year has been way harder.”
Lori Copenhaver, head coach for Liberty gymnastics for the past 22 years, praised Riley.
“I was really proud of her today,” she said Feb. 15. “Learning a new vault, she got that, and stood up on it. It’s just exciting.”
Riley was the Patriot gymnasts’ sole representative at state. The team is young this year, with mostly freshman athletes and senior Shawna Sarett, a state participant in 2012 and 2011.
“I think the freshmen have a lot of potential,” Riley said, while Copenhaver said the freshmen could learn a lot from Riley’s dedication.
Riley has not chosen a college, but said she knows she won’t compete in college.
“This is all my body can handle,” said Riley, who has endured back fractures, tendinitis and neck injuries during her time at Liberty.
Still, she would not change a thing about her last overall performance. Her coach would, though.
“Wish that she had another year,” Copenhaver said. “Another meet, just one more.”