Gymnastics: East Ridge heads to state as a team, Park and East Ridge send individuals to state
If a team reaches the state gymnastics meet once in a few years, it shows they had a strong season where every gymnast clicked at the right time.
When a team reaches the state gymnastics meet for five straight seasons, it shows there's any expectation and a tradition that lies within the program to strive for excellence.
For the East Ridge gymnastics team, this will be their fifth straight state appearance as a team. The tradition has been in place and now the gymnasts strive for excellence day in and day out.
These Raptor gymnasts have had a taste of state and have experienced the lights and sounds of the weekend over the past four seasons. They enjoyed it and always want to come back the next season to reach state once again.
When their name was called as section champions, the Raptors were excited for two reasons. One, they were returning to state and they are happy with representing the high school in the upcoming weekend. Two, the girls were excited about their team scores as they scored their best score of the season.
"It seemed like everything clicked for us today," said East Ridge's head coach Caroline Hilpisch. "I couldn't be more proud of these girls and what they've accomplished this season."
Hilpisch started her time at East Ridge a couple years ago. She started as an assistant and last season was her first year being the head coach.
The secret behind the success of this program is from the gymnasts themselves. It's a tradition of older gymnasts teaching younger girls how to compete as a Raptor.
"We learned the expectations when we were freshmen from the seniors at the time," said senior Cassie Kahrer. "Now, we are teaching the younger girls because we want this tradition to carry on when we leave next year."
As for sections on Friday, the Raptors scored a 148.250 which is the highest score this season for East Ridge. The reason behind this high score is due to every gymnast fixing the small details before Friday.
"We had one of our best practices on Thursday and it showed today," said senior Hannah Walker. "We focused on each routine and made sure to do our best. Then, it showed in the team score."
Senior Hannah Walker said Thursday's practice was probably one of the best practices all season long. It seemed like everything clicked and the nerves disappeared for Friday's meet.
That translated into Friday as every gymnast stuck their routines in bars and beam. The Raptors took first in every event at the section meet.
East Ridge's best score came from floor with a 38.000, while beam and vault received a 37.200. The Raptors also scored a 35.850 on the bars.
"It felt like one person would stick their landing and the next person would want to do the same," said junior Lexie Corcoran. "Luckily it just trickled down to each gymnast and we had one of our best meets this season."
Along with the East Ridge team going to state, there will be a handful of Raptors that go to state as individuals too.
Kahrer and Hailey Tretter both earned spots in the all-around for state as they qualified in the top three. Kahrer took first place with a score of 38.250, while Tretter finished third with a score of 37.175.
"It's exciting [to be in all-around] because it's my first year doing it," Tretter said. "It's just fun to see all my hard work pay off at the end of the year."
Joining the two all-around gymnasts will be three other girls from East Ridge. Walker will be competing in the vault as she placed third in the event with a score of 9.350.
Corcoran scored sixth place in the uneven bars with a score of 8.850. Finally, Corcoran and Lauren Rodriguez were able to make it to state on floor. Corcoran placed third with a score of 9.600 and Rodriguez finished fifth with a score of 9.350.
"It's fun to be apart of the individual meet this season," Rodriguez said. "I just want to give my best performance on floor at state next weekend."
East Ridge isn't the only school that sending individuals to state. The Park gymnastics team will be sending two individuals to state to represent the Wolfpack.
Both of the gymnasts were there last season at the same events, so they know what to expect coming into this year's meet.
Senior Brenna Sommerland will be heading to state for beam as she finished third in the section meet with a score of 9.450. She went to state last season for beam and she knows the nerves will be less for this upcoming weekend.
"It's exciting to get back to state for my senior year," Sommerland said. "I feel confident coming into this weekend and I hope to place this year at state."
Sommerland will have her teammate, senior Mandy Hafner, who qualified for state on the uneven bars. She finished tied for fourth at sections with a score of 8.925.
Hafner said her bar routine didn't go according to plan as she had to catch herself halfway though the routine. She was proud of herself for changing on the fly and sticking the landing to get the score needed for state qualification.
"It's fun to go back to state for my senior year," Hafner said. "I just hope to finish my year and my career out on a high note at state."
The Park gymnastics team as a whole finished in fourth place, but head coach Alison Flaata couldn't have been more proud of this team and this season.
Flaata said the team had some unexpected things happen in the section meet that she hasn't seen this season. They were very uncommon things, but she's proud of the way the girls had each other's backs and continued putting up strong scores with each routine.
"This season was so much fun because you could see the growth that each girl made this year," Flaata said. "It's going to be tough to say goodbye to our seniors because they've done so much for our program, but I believe this program will continue to grow once next year approaches."
There are two all-around gymnasts on the varsity squad this season that are underclassmen. Flaata is hoping they will come in next year with some leadership and be able to continue building the tradition of Park gymnastics.
Woodbury finished in fifth place as a team at sections on Friday, but weren't able to send any individuals to the state meet.
The Royals will look to continue building the program next season with some returners coming back and ready to take on that leadership role.
The state gymnastics meet is broken up into two days. The East Ridge gymnastics team will compete on Friday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. in the team portion of the competition. Then, the East Ridge and Park gymnasts will compete on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. for individual titles. The gymnasts will compete at the Maturi Pavilion on the University of Minnesota's campus for both days and both events.