Young Liberty team falls to Mount Si

January 28, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

By Greg Farrar Emily Culbertson, Liberty High School sophomore, grips the low uneven bar with the momentum to begin her routine, earning 6.3 for third place on the apparatus, part of the 27.85 points that earned her fifth place all-around score Jan. 23 against Mount Si.

By Greg Farrar
Emily Culbertson, Liberty High School sophomore, grips the low uneven bar with the momentum to begin her routine, earning 6.3 for third place on the apparatus, part of the 27.85 points that earned her fifth place all-around score Jan. 23 against Mount Si.

With just one upperclassman on the Liberty gymnastic team’s 21-person roster, it’d be an understatement to say the program is experiencing a youth movement.

The team is riddled with freshmen and sophomores, some of whom have never even played the sport.

The young team is bound for some growing pains, as seen in its Jan. 23 loss to Mount Si, but if the core stays together, coach Lori Copenhaver said, the future looks bright for Patriots gymnastics.

“This year, the girls are very young, but they work really hard and they’re really self-motivated,” she said.

The Patriots fell to the Wildcats, 147.5-124.1, at Bellevue High School. Mount Si gymnasts took first place in every event, including the all-around.

Liberty’s highest finisher in the all-around was sophomore Emily Culbertson, who had a score of 27.85, good for fifth overall.

“Some days you just have an off day, but I think I did pretty well,” Culbertson said.

Culbertson also took third place on the bars, fifth place on the vault, sixth on the floor and tied for seventh on the beam. Her third-place finish on bars was Liberty’s top performance of the night.

Teammate Candace Baltazar finished just behind Culbertson in the all-around in sixth place with an overall score of 25.35.

Baltazar, a sophomore team captain, said it’s been tough to replace the production of graduated senior stars Tia Riley and Shawna Sarrett.

“It’s a little harder to win meets, but everyone’s close in age, so we kind of bond more,” Baltazar said of the young team.

Baltazar also took fourth place on vault, eighth on floor and tied for third on the beam.

While the members are young, the Liberty gymnastics team is larger than it was a year ago. It has 21 on its roster, as opposed to 13 last year.

“The hardest part, for me, is being able to spend the time I want to with each girl,” Copenhaver said.

That attention is important, she said, because many of her girls have never competed in gymnastics.

Take for example, Liberty’s Gillian Archibald. She decided to take up the sport this year, Copenhaver said, and has shown steady improvement with each meet. She took sixth place on the beam with a score of 6.2 against Mount Si.

“She’s really solid so far,” Copenhaver said of Archibald. “I think all of our young girls have a lot of potential.”

Liberty gymnasts Lauren Coate and Michelle Pan were the only other Patriots that placed in the meet’s overall top 10. Coate finished seventh and Pan came in eighth, directly behind teammates Culbertson and Baltazar.

The young team has yet to win a meet this year, but for the rebuilding squad members, they aren’t measuring progress in wins, as much as they are in improvement.

“A lot of girls are improving very fast, especially with how many people are so new at the sport,” Culbertson said.

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