Elizabeth High gymnasts vaulting to new heights

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Elizabeth High's gymnastic squad has been blessed with success ever since Coach Stacey Folmar started the program in 2006.

The Cardinal gymnasts are the defending state champs and the No. 1 seed going into the 4A regional championships Oct. 26 at Cherry Creek High.

“It's been quite a run,” said Folmar. “I couldn't be more proud of what these girls have accomplished.”

At the state meet, to be held Nov. 1 and 2 at Thornton High, the team will be trying to tumble their way to a fourth state title in just the last eight years — including 2009 and 2010, when the Cardinals also won it all.

“We have more depth this year, including four seniors who all contribute,” Folmar said. “Even though the competition in the Jefferson County League this year has been a lot stiffer than in years past, I feel good about our chances, both at regionals and at state.”

Folmar, who grew up in Meadville, Pa., and was an accomplished gymnast herself, operates the Chalk Box, a popular gymnastics school and training facility north of Elizabeth.

Together with EHS assistant coach Val Koppinger, she has been putting in extra time in recent weeks prepping the Cardinal tumblers for their final meets of the season.

Injuries have been an issue for this year's squad, she said, but the team “should be back at full strength just in time for the season's home stretch.”

The Cardinals have only lost once this year, falling to 5A Arvada West in their first meet of the season.

“Coach Folmar and her staff have done just an incredible job building our program and working with the girls. Right from the very first season, gymnastics has been a fantastic sport for us,” said Elizabeth High Athletic Director Chris Cline, who has already had to make room in the school's trophy case this fall for state championship hardware won by the EHS boys' golf and cross country teams.

When gymnastics was added to the school's slate of sports in 2006, Cline said he didn't know what to expect: “Twelve kids came out for the team that first season and Coach Folmar has continued to build the program ever since. Now we get 18 or 20 girls each year taking part in the sport and Elizabeth High has become a real gymnastics' powerhouse.”

“These girls grow up doing gymnastics together and become a team long before they hit high school,” said Folmar. “I've worked with most of the kids on this year's team since they were seven or eight years old. They are a very committed and driven group of athletes who hold each other to high standards but are also best friends.”

Folmar said five athletes — three seniors and two juniors — make up the nucleus of this year's team.

• Alissa Poland, a senior and the squad's top all-around gymnast, was just named first team All-Conference in floor exercise. “She's been our most consistent gymnast by far this year,” said Folmar. “Meet after meet, Alissa just keeps on hitting.”

• Hailey Breikss, a senior and all-around gymnast, was injured earlier in the season. “She's slowly been able to work her way back into top shape,” said Folmar. Breikss was just named second team All-Conference in vault and bars.

• Emily Reynolds, a senior, leads the team on balance beam and was just named second team All-Conference in the all-around event.

• Jessie Gerczynski, a junior all-arounder, was named to the second team All-Conference squad.

• Hayden Stout, a junior, was just named to the second team All-Conference squad on bars.

“The wonderful thing about this year's team is that these girls are all great students and role models, too,” said Folmar.

Many of the Cardinals' gymnasts work with younger athletes at Folmar's Chalk Box gym. “All of our home meets are packed because the kids and their families come out to support the team,” Folmar said.

“If this year's team wins another state championship,” Folmar said, “that would mean we've won state 50 percent of the time we've had a team.”

Not many other coaches can brag about those kinds of results. The secret to Elizabeth's success, Folmar said, is simple: hard work and unselfish attitudes.

“The girls have a motto,” she added. “A successful team beats with one heart.”