February 23, 2012 at 8:31 a.m.
Section 4A Championships
For the first time in years, the Chisago Lakes and North Branch gymnastics teams had a postseason to compete for.
After being gridlocked with state powers year after year in Class AA, both schools bumped down to Class A this year, and it made both of them among the favorites to win the section team title and send a multitude of individual gymnasts to the state tournament.
Although neither did win the team title, they made it interesting, and they both were able to send multiple gymnasts to the state tournament.
The Wildcats first rotation was on vault, which was been one of their stronger events this year. Behind Nicole Bean, Alicia Sokol, Sam Thomsen and Madeline Carlson, Chisago Lakes racked up 33.650 points in the event. Although they had four consistent performances, they didn’t quite get a standout one they were looking for to propel them to the top of the standings.
On North Branch’s first rotation, the took to the balance beam and knocked out the toughest event first.
Ariana Olson led the way, scoring an 8.7 for North Branch, but only Bayley Ertl and Katy Trunk scored over an eight besides Olson, and it left them with a 32.825 in the event.
North Branch’s second rotation was on the floor exercise. Ertl, Trunk and Maranda Nelson combined for a solid trio of scores all over 8.3, and Jaime Salo supplemented those scores with a 7.9, giving the Vikings a 33.275 in the event.
In Chisago Lakes’ second rotation, they hopped on the uneven bars. Thomsen led the Wildcats, scoring an 8.675 while Bean posted a strong 8.3. Courtney Schlegel and Sokol both added matching 7.75’s to earn the ‘Cats 32.475 points. “Both Sam and Nicole were within a quarter point of their personal bests,” Chisago Lakes Head Coach Brett Kjos said. “We needed both of them to score big and they did.” The event score was the ‘Cats highest of the year.
Chisago Lakes has struggled with the beam at times this year, and taking it on in their third rotation was tough. The event was quickly shaping up as a three-horse race with Rush City in the lead at 66.525, Chisago Lakes in second with 66.125 and North Branch in third with 66.100, and any slight misstep could cost any of those teams.
The Wildcats performed well on the beam, though, getting four scores over 8.150 including an 8.4 by Bean, and 8.3’s by Schlegel and Sokol. Thomsen rounded out the varsity scoring with an 8.15 to total 33.150 points for Chisago Lakes in the event. “What can I say, they did incredible,” Kjos said after the event. “Four out the five girls stuck their routines with no falls.” Schlegel’s 8.3 was a personal best for her.
Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, Rush City, who was in the same rotation, stuck all of their difficult routines on the beam and scored a 35.475 to begin to create separation between the schools with only one event left.
But, North Branch was still creeping, as they were on a different rotation and were taking on the vault, their best event on the year. Trunk stuck a 9.225 routine to lead North Branch and Ertl scored a strong 8.775. Nelson and Olson added scores over 8.25 and the Vikings had suddenly surged past Chisago Lakes with a 34.575 and stood only a point and a half behind Rush City with one event remaining.
Chisago Lakes and Rush City were set to battle it out in the last rotation on the floor exercise. The Wildcats got huge scores from Sokol and Thomsen. Sokol had a personal best 8.925 and Thomsen was right behind with a personal best 8.825. Carlson added an 8.3 and Bean tacked on an 8.15 to score the ‘Cats 34.2 and give them a fighting chance at catching Rush City, but it also put them right in line with a second place battle with county rival North Branch.
The race for second place between Chisago and North Branch basically came down to the last rotation. We needed to hit and to hit big,” Kjos exclaimed. “And we did. Both Reba Berg and Madeline had season high scores. Nicole had a solid routine but we needed Sam and Alicia to give the performances of their careers and they succeeded. It was the best routines I have ever seen them do and itt’s not even close. It was fun to watch.”
Rush City answered the bell in the floor exercise, scoring a meet-best 35.15 with three girls scoring over 8.675 and sealing their trip to the state tournament as a team.
North Branch, however, still had to fend Chisago Lakes off from second place after the ‘Cats impressive floor score. The Vikes struggled a bit on the uneven bars, and it opened the door for CL to pass them. Trunk led the Lady Vikes with an 8.625, but Olson was the only other girl to score above eight and the Vikings finished with 132.425 points in third place while Chisago Lakes grabbed second place with a score of 133.475.
“Overall we set five personal records in this meet. Without the girls’ hard work this season and these personal records at the biggest meet of the season, I do not think we come away with the second place trophy or qualify as many as we did for state,” Kjos said after the busy meet was completed. “It really shows the character of these girls. When it really mattered, they gave it all they had and left everything out on the floor. Now the fun begins at state!”
“What can I say, we had an amazing season so far,” North Branch Assistant Coach Tiffany Saltness said. “[Head Coach] Barb Burdick and I could not be more proud of our team this year. We did not have the best meet of the season but, we are so proud to be sending two girls to state this year.” It’s the first time the Vikings have sent multiple gymnasts to the state tournament since 1987.
“Bayley and Katy were not the only two who deserve a round of applause for their performances, though,” Saltness mentioned. “Senior Ariana Olson was out there giving it her all for the team despite having an injured leg and being in pain. She really pulled through for the team.”
The five girls will compete in the individual state tournament on Saturday, Feb. 25. The events start at 2 p.m. and run until 5 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion at the University of Minnesota.
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