December 17, 2009 at 10:16 a.m.
The North Branch Vikings and Chisago Lakes Wildcats had their annual rivalry renewed earlier than normal this year.
The cross county rivals both opened their season on Thursday, Dec. 10 against each other at the Main Street School in North Branch, and Chisago Lakes reversed their fortunes from last year and came out on top this time. "It's a great way to start off the season with a conference win," Wildcat Head Coach Brett Kjos said.
The night started out ominous for the Vikings. On the first warm up of the first meet of the year, senior all-around gymnast Sammy Jannings sprained her ankle warming up her vault routine. The injury took her out of the lineup for the rest of the night, and it left Head Coach Barb Burdick scrambling, trying to fill Jannings spots with the few junior varsity gymnasts that North Branch has.
The Vikings started out on the vault, and took an early lead behind consistent scores from their top four gymnasts. Ariana Olson had the top score, with an 8.6, Darbi Berkman scored a solid 8.4 and Bayley Ertl and Kassie Salo were right behind them with an 8.35 and an 8.3 respectively.
The Wildcats, however, started on the always tough uneven bars. After a round of nice scores from the opening trio that steadily climbed, beginning with Madeline Carlson's 7.5 and ending with Savanna Stendahl's 7.925, Lindsay Carlson made her much heralded return to the gymnastics floor for the Wildcats after a two-year hiatus for club gymnastics.
Carlson didn't disappoint, scoring an 8.925 on the bars, almost a full point higher than any other competitor on the night.
When the two squads switched events, the Wildcats seized control of the meet. Carlson again dominated an event, this time the vault, scoring an amazing 9.3.
The rest of her teammates weren't far behind. Alicia Sokol scored an 8.55, Cassie Schlegel earned an 8.45 and Stendahl finished off the varsity score with an 8.375. The 34.675 points the 'Cats scored in the event was the top score of any event on the night.
While the 'Cats were impressing on vault, the Vikings were struggling on the bars. With only four gymnasts in the event because of Jannings injury, the Vikes had no room for error. Salo scored an even 8 in the event, and Olson scored a 7.575, but Ertl only managed a 7.2 and Tayler Fertig scored a 7.050.
The results left the Wildcats up 66.575-63.475 over the Vikings.
Things didn't get any better for the Vikings either, as they had the toughest event of the night up next -- the balance beam.
Olson had the top point score on the evening in the beam event, earning an 8.2 for her efforts. After Olson, though, things got rough. Salo scored a 7.350, Ertl notched a 7.050 and Fertig scored a 6.875.
The Wildcats extended their lead to nearly five points through three events when they had a good showing on their floor routines.
Carlson was the top scorer on the night, earning an 8.55, and the rest of the 'Cats grouped together to round out the varsity score. Stendahl scored a 7.6 and Sokol and Sam Thomsen both scored 7.45's in their routines.
The Vikings needed a disaster from the Wildcats on the beam, and a very strong performance of their own on the floor to have a shot at getting the meet close.
Although they did score a 31.4 in the floor -- the only event on the night that they beat the Wildcats in -- Chisago Lakes stayed strong on the beam and cruised to the four point win.
Olson was again the top scorer for the Vikings, taking an 8.325 score home in her floor exercise. Ertl narrowly stayed above the 8-point plateau with matching 8-point scores from each judge. Salo had a nice showing, earning a 7.925 for her efforts. Berkman battled through a fall on one of her flips to scored a 7.15 for the Vikings.
On the beam event for the Wildcats, Carlson scored a team-high 8.1 while Stendahl and Madeline Carlson both had great routines. Stendahl was just behind Lindsay with a 7.95, and Madeline Carlson was just behind Stendahl with a 7.8. Thomsen rounded out the varsity score with 7.1 on the beam.
"For the first meet, I'm very pleased," Kjos stated. "We just need to improve a little by doing routine after routine in practice."
Kjos is, however, ecstatic at the score the team earned. The 128.625 is higher than any scores the 'Cats earned last year, and it was only the first mee of the season. "We scored a 106 at the first meet last year," Kjos explained. "A 22-point imporvement is just awesome. What a way to start off."
Burdick was equally impressed with her team, even though they came out on the wrong end of the meet. "We finished with a total of 124.35, which puts us three and a half points higher than our first meet last year," she said. "We have a small, but strong team."