Back to back: Park edges East Ridge for second-straight Section 3AA championship, state berthPark put together its best performance of the season, scoring a meet-best 144.45 to top second-place East Ridge’s 143.80, winning the Section 3AA championship and earning a state meet berth on Thursday, Jan. 16, at Park High School.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
Last February, after going a perfect 9-0 during the regular season, the Park gymnastics team took third place in the Class AA state meet with a season-high 149.825. The team returned seven of its top eight gymnasts from last year’s team and seemed destined for greater things this season.
However, with a number of key gymnasts sidelined with injuries, Park limped through the 2011-12 season, hitting a low less than a month ago, losing to Mounds View 135.8 to 122.9 on Thursday, Jan. 26.
Though still battling injuries at the Section 3AA Championship meet, held Thursday, Jan. 16, at Park High School, Park edged Suburban East Conference and district 833 rival East Ridge to earn the Section 3AA championship and a second-straight state meet berth. Park put together its best performance of the season, scoring a meet-best 144.45 to top second-place East Ridge’s 143.80, which was a school-record for the Raptors.
“It’s been a really tough season,” Park junior Kasondra Tulloch said. “It feels really good to come back from a low to a high and showing we could do it. It’s been perseverance and motivation. If you really want it, you’ll go for it and just hope for the best.”
Tulloch won the Section 3AA all-around championship for a second consecutive year, scoring a meet-best 37.35 to eke out a win over East Ridge senior Leah Robinette, who scored a 37.325 to take second place.
Heading into the meet, East Ridge was ranked eighth in Class AA with a 142.017 average and Park was ninth with a 141.925 average. Back on Jan. 5, East Ridge defeated Park 142.615 to 141.375 – when Park was without two of its top gymnasts in Rachel Deephouse and Sarah LaBrosse. In the Section 3AA championship, however, Deephouse rejoined the Wolfpack lineup, which had welcomed back LaBrosse a week ago.
Deephouse, who earned third place in last year’s state all-around competition, qualified for the state meet for a second straight time by taking fourth place in the floor exercise with a 9.45 score. It was Deephouse’s first meet since Dec. 17.
The junior said she wasn’t 100 percent yet and was “a little sore” after the meet.
“I feel like I could have done better,” she said. “But, since I took eight weeks off, I did well for how long I was off. I really care about my team and want to see them achieve their potential. I was really nervous, but I wanted to do it for them.”
In addition to LaBrosse and Deephouse not yet being at top form, Park was also without senior Baylee Erickson for the section meet.
Tulloch said the Deephouse was the difference in the section meet.
“I’m so proud of her. She’s worked so hard the past two months to work her way back,” Tulloch said. “She was really good tonight.”
The section meet came down to the wire. Park held a 2.3 point lead (109.35 to 107.05) heading into the final turn, with Park on bars and East Ridge on the floor. In the final event, Park scored a 35.1 and East Ridge tallied a 36.8. But, it was enough for the Wolfpack to hang on.
“I had a feeling we won, but I didn’t know for sure. We were so nervous,” Deephouse said. “It feels really good. It’s even better because the school was here to support us.”
Overall, Park finished first in the vault (36.925) and first in the floor exercise (37.8) and in second place on the bars (35.1) and on the beam (34.625). East Ridge took first place on the bars (35.425) and first on the beam (34.775), second in the vault (36.85) and third on the floor (36.8).
With the top four finishers in each event also earning trips to state, including Deephouse, Park is sending three individual competitors to state and East Ridge is sending two gymnasts.
Tulloch, who finished second in the state all-around competition a year ago, took first place in the floor exercise (9.6) and on the bars (9.7) and third place in the vault (9.5) to qualify to state in the three events.
“I didn’t do my best, but it was really good,” Tulloch said. “I feel good about it.”
Robinette finished in second place in the floor exercise (9.525), second on the bars (9.625), and second in the vault (9.525).
“I’m just sad my career is done in high school,” Robinette said. “I’m happy I’m going to state, but I wanted the team to go. But, we did our best. We did better than I thought we’d do. We held our composure. There’s a lot going on. It’s the biggest meet of the year.”
In addition, East Ridge eighth grader Megan Trollen took first place on the beam (9.275) to earn a trip to state in the event and Park freshman Sarah Schank finished in fourth place on the bars (9.0) to qualify for state.
Fellow District 833 school, Woodbury placed seventh in the eight-team meet with a 128.025 total. The Royals didn’t qualify a gymnast to state this year. Woodbury junior Jordan Rodriguez was the Royals’ top all-around finisher taking 15th place with a score of 33.050. Rodriguez had Woodbury’s high score of the night with an 8.75 in the vault.
The state gymnastics meet will be held Feb. 24 and 25 at the University of Minnesota.
Northfield will enter the meet as the favorite, ranked No. 1 with a 149.75 average score, followed by SEC champion Roseville with a 147.5 score.
Tulloch said she’s alright with Park taking the underdog role at the state meet.
“I’m ok with that. We made it, so I’m proud,” she said.