|3/1/2018 3:20:00 PM|
GOLDEN MOMENT: Aliah Williams wins state all around title
Aliah Williams knew her balance beam routine would set the tone for her day at the state gymnastics meet on Saturday, February 24.
She fell on the beam in sections and failed to qualify for that event individually, so there was a level of doubt in her mind about the routine that she opened with.
But, she nailed it, tying her personal record on the balance beam with a 9.425, and that propelled her to the all-around win, which was Chisago Lakes’ first ever state championship in gymnastics.
“Aliah really looked great in practice last week and we knew as coaches that she was ready to go,” Head Coach Brett Kjos said. “It was the best meet of her life, and what a time for it to happen.”
Williams’ day got started with a blessing and a curse. Not only did Section 5A have balance beam first, Williams was the first girl who had to perform, so she essentially opened the whole meet with her toughest routine.
“There was so much pressure on her as the first girl to go,” Kjos said. But, it also meant she didn’t have to think about the routine the rest of the day once she stuck it, and she was able to focus on perfecting her last three events.
“I was really nervous because I didn’t know I was going to be up first until we got there,” Williams said. “I felt confident after the three minute touch and I didn’t have time to think about falling before I went. After completing beam, I was relieved and ready to go to the other events.”
The floor routine, which was second in the rotation, was a great performance by Williams. She managed to earn a three way tie for second place, but the tiebreaker dropped her to third place overall in the event, still a strong finish with the elite gymnasts that were at the meet.
Her vault was another huge milestone. Williams performed a layout Yurchenko, which is a vault she had never completed during the high school season. She had done it a few times in club gymnastics and into the soft pit at Flyaways, but never in high school competition. She didn’t even practice the vault in the pre-meet warm up or in the three minute warm up period before competing. “When she said that both of her vaults would be the layout, I was really nervous,” Kjos said. He explained that normally, she would pick a safer vault to get a good score, and then go for the new vault on the second attempt. “It was a very risky plan, but she absolutely nailed it,” the coach said.
One of the judges commented on it being the best vault he had seen all day, which was not bad considering she didn’t even practice it during her warm up. The 9.725 was a new personal record for Williams, and it tied her for second place in vault for the whole meet.
“I had practiced the move the night before into the pit at my old gym,” Williams explained. “One of my teammates was motivating me to do it and it’s state, so why not? It turned out to be my best vault of the year.”
Williams closed her stellar meet on the uneven bars. She had a solid routine on the bars, which placed her in fifth place in the event with 9.575. While her routine was going, the only gymnast who was keeping pace with her fell twice on the balance beam, setting Williams up for the championship. “We just had to wait one more rotation for it to be official, and it was a very nervous time for all of us,” Kjos noted.
Once that rotation was finalized and all the scores were tallied, Williams was crowned the Class A state champion in the all around. She scored a 38.2625, which was a personal best and a new school record. She beat Jackson Hegg of Detroit Lakes, who finished in second place with a 37.85
“To have Aliah become the state champion was incredible,” Kjos said. “What a meet she put together.”
“It was definitely the best meet of my life,” Williams said. “It was a crazy feeling. A mix of being thrilled that I won but also that our section did amazing as a team! I felt like it finally all came together and the thought that I had the best meet of my life in that spot was insane.”
Ertl finishes top 10 in all around
Keeley Ertl closed her impressive gymnastics career for North Branch with a 10th place finish in the all around.
She scored a 36.825 with a strong score on vault, balance beam and floor. She put up a 9.2 on the balance beam to open the meet, which was a strong start for her. On the floor exercise, she scored a 9.45, which was right up near the top scores for the day. She was sitting pretty after the first two events.
In the vault, she kept her scores high with a 9.5, and that left her just a half of a point out of the top cluster of gymnasts, with a chance at a top five finish in state.
But, Ertl closed on the uneven bars and had trouble with the event. She scored only 8.675 and that dropped her out of that very top tier to 10th place, still a very strong finish, giving her back-to-back top 10 finishes in the all around.
Elsa Leopold was a fellow Wildcat competitor who had qualified for the uneven bars. She scored an 8.825, which put her 26th in the 48 girl field, not bad at all for a sophomore at her first state tournament.