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Sneden's a state vault champ

When Danielle Sneden landed her first vault, everyone in Wilkins Auditorium knew what she had just done. When the score of 9.9 flashed on the scoreboard, it was all but official - she had won the Class AA state championship.

"It was the last rotation of the whole meet. She had the third best scores all season, so she had a chance," Stillwater coach Ellie Berg said. "We knew that if she stuck her landing, she'd have a good shot, so we were watching the other competition very closely.

"The place just went wild when she landed. She hit an incredible vault."

Sneden still had another vault to go, and there were two other competitors behind her, but it was practically in the bag at that point. She went even bigger on her second try, but an improper step on her landing dropped her score slightly to 9.7.

Sneden's first mark of 9.9 was not only a Stillwater Area High School record, but held up to win her the top spot.

The event was jam-packed with talent, as five of the top six medals winners were back from last year, including defending champion Kasey Clausen. Sneden was fourth at state last year.

"One judge even gave her a 9.95 on that first vault," Berg said. "I have never seen a 9.95 in my life."

Sneden also shined in the floor exercise, where her high-energy performance earned her fifth place. Her score of 9.675 edged her past former Stillwater star Molly Miller for Sneden's second school record of the meet. Miller and Sneden shared the previous mark of 9.6625.

Cristina Ortiz of Park won the event with a score of 9.85.

"It was a beautiful floor routine. She was fourth on the floor at the section meet, and she ended up outscoring two of the girls ahead of her," Berg said. "It was her best performance of the season."

The Ponies other representative at the state meet, Tamra Newman, also had a great day. She may have placed 19th (8.9375) on the beam, but it was a top-notch performance.

"It was a solid performance. It was great to see her have a solid routine at state," Berg said. "So many times these girls work all week on their events, and nail them every time. Then when state comes they miss something they don't normally miss. That wasn't the case here."

Justine Jarnes of Bloomington Jefferson took the top spot with a score of 9.7875. Two of the Ponies arch-rivals - Park's Danielle White and Ortiz - took second and third, respectively.

"Our section and conference did well. We have incredibly strong gymnastics over here in the eastern suburbs," Berg said. "We had three state champs out of the SEC."

Park won the Class AA team title, with a score of 149.975 and White Bear Lake was fourth overall (148.775). Besides having two teams in the top four, three SEC individuals won titles: Sneden on vault, White Bear Lake's Megan Merritt on the uneven bars and Ortiz on the floor.