Park gymnastics: Wolfpack wins section title, going back to state for third-straight time
For five Park seniors it's a chance to go for gold one more time. For the rest of the Wolfpack it's an opportunity to show what they can do and send the 2013 graduates out in style.
The Park gymnastics team earned a third-straight trip to the state meet with a first-place finish at the Section 3AA Championships on Friday, Feb. 16, at Eagan High School. Park finished third in the state in the 2010-11 season and fourth last year.
"Back when our current seniors were sophomores I knew we had a special group that had the ability to make a run," Park head coach Mark Sikich said. "We've gone through some adversities with injuries and stuff, but this speaks volumes to the tenacity and resiliency of the girls. They're tough and they have a mindset that they want to represent our school and our community and it showed."
With team and individual qualifications on the line at the Section 3AA Championship, the Wolfpack scored 145.65 to top second-place Rosemount, which scored a 143.45, to punch a ticket to the state meet. Park basically dominated the section meet, winning the vault with a 37.65, the bars with a 34.850, the beam with a 35.150 and the floor exercise with a 38.0.
"I'm so excited," Park senior McKay Zurn said. "We've all worked so hard for it. This year is, obviously, extra special because it's our last year."
However, Zurn said it wasn't a perfect meet for the Wolfpack.
"We had a couple of bad mess ups," she said. "We did alright, but I know we can do better. We just had to stay confident and we knew we could do it. We just needed to stay strong. It was a really good meet."
The No. 1 team from the section meet earns a trip to the state meet. The top four individual finishers in each event also qualify for state.
Park senior Morgan Schank said "It felt good to go out with a bang."
"I'm very proud of this team," Schank said. "I knew we could do it. Going to state is just awesome. Just being there is such a good time."
Individually, Park senior Kasondra Tulloch led the way for the Wolfpack, taking first place in the all-around with a 37.5, topping Rosemount spitfire Josey Schlie, a seventh grader, who scored a 37.350. Tulloch won the bars with a 9.550, tied for first place in the floor exercise with a 9.675, took second in the vault with a 9.5 and placed seventh on the beam with an 8.775.
In addition, Park sophomore Sarah Schank qualified for state in the all-around with a third-place 36.60. Sarah Schank earned third place on the bars with a 9.2, took fourth place on the beam with an 8.9 and took eighth place in the floor exercise with a 9.45.
Park senior Rachel Deephouse also shined at the section meet, taking first place in her two events: The vault, with a 9.55, and the floor exercise with a 9.675 - which tied Tulloch for first. Deephouse doesn't compete on the bars or the beam because of a back injury suffered last year.
Last year, Tulloch and Deephouse fought through injuries to medal at state. Tulloch placed second and Deephouse earned sixth place in the floor exercise. Two seasons ago, Tulloch and Deephouse took second and third place, respectively, in the all-around competition, becoming the first Park gymnasts to medal at the state meet since the 2006-07 season.
Also turning in strong performances at the section meet was Park junior Sarah LaBrosse, who placed sixth on the beam (8.755), 10th in the vault (9.25) and 10th in the all-around (35.05), junior Allie Minogue, who earned sixth place in the vault (9.35) and Morgan Schank, who tied for eighth on the beam (8.675).
"When you get to this level, it's not about your No. 1 and No. 2, you need a No. 3 and No. 4 hitter," Sikich said. "I equate it to baseball, you need table-setters and people that can hit it out of the park - and we do. "
Park is currently ranked sixth in the state in Class AA with a 142.542 average. Longtime rival Roseville in ranked No. 1 at 149.342, just ahead of No. 2 Northfield, which has an average score of 149.0.
Park's intra-district and Suburban East Conference rival East Ridge failed to send a gymnast to the state meet for the first time in its four-year history. Last year, 2012 graduate Leah Robinette won the vault state championship crown and competed in the state all-around contest, while Megan Trollen earned a trip to state in the beam.
This year, however, the Raptors were shutout for the first time.
Trollen, a freshman, took fifth place on the bars with an 8.95, placed fifth in the floor exercise with a 9.5 and was sixth in the all-around with a 35.875. Also, junior Kelly McKenzie took seventh in the floor exercise with a 9.5 and placed 10th in the vault with a 9.25.
East Ridge placed fifth as a team with a 137.6.
The state gymnastics meet will take place Feb. 22 and 23 at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.
Park will be making its 15th appearance at the state meet, which will be Sickich's last meet as Park head coach. Roseville won the Class AA state championship last season with a score of 149.325, edging two-time defending state champion Northfield, which scored 149.150. Park last won the state championship in 2004.
Sikich said he believes Park can hit 149 or 150 points if the Wolfpack puts it all together.
"That's the idea," Sikich said. "That's the mentality going in. We did leave a lot out there and the girls know it. But now, this is just icing on the cake. Let's cut loose, go 100 miles-an-hour with your hair on fire and see what happens. That's what I'm excited about for these girls."