Three gymnasts from North Branch and one from Pine City (representing the Rush City/Pine City/Hinckley-Finlayson co-op) competed in the Class A state gymnastics championships at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis on Feb. 25.
North Branch juniors Keeley Ertl and Alexys Olson and sophomore Angie Fish, and Flamingos senior Elsie Lundquist were introduced to the crowd, along with the rest of the field, in a grand march onto the floor before the championship session began. Gymnasts were introduced by section, led by a banner-carrier. After the introductions were complete, many of the sectional delegations performed a cheer together. For the local gymnasts, the chant went “Section what?” “7A!” “Section what?” “7A!”
This camaraderie among the Section 7A qualifiers extended to cheering support for one another throughout the day’s eight rotations as the various entrants took on the events in which they had qualified, a situation that may be unique to gymnastics.
“At the section meet we’re all our own team, so it’s nice to come together here and be one team,” Ertl said.
“I’ve been here before, and it’s never been like that,” Olson said. “Our section came together and supported each other, and that made it really fun.” The 7A group drew the floor exercise for its initial rotation. As an all-around qualifier, Ertl was set to compete on all four apparatuses anyway, but as Section 7A champion, her floor routine also counted toward the individual standings. Ertl executed a flawless routine, earning a 9.525 score to place ninth.
“Floor went really well, that was probably the best routine I’ve ever done,” Ertl said.
Vault was next on the schedule. Again, Ertl’s routine counted for the all-around and individual standings. She scored a 9.525 on her second attempt to place seventh, her highest spot in any event and just one place away from a podium finish.
Section 7A champion Lundquist placed 15th (9.425) with her pike-Tsuk.
Only Ertl competed on the uneven bars, as part of her all-around run. Her 9.2 was by far the best performance among those not qualified for the individual standings and would have slotted her in a tie for 13th were she eligible to place.
As with the floor, Ertl cited her state performance as her best-ever on the bars.
All three Vikings performed on beam, Ertl for the all-around and Olson and Fish as individual qualifiers. All three avoided falling off, with Fish (9.075) and Olson (9.05) finishing 12th and 13th. Ertl scored 8.825.
“This is my first time competing at the high-school state meet, so I think I stressed myself out more than I should have,” Fish said. “It went as good as I could have hoped for.”
“Getting here alone is such an accomplishment,” Olson said. “My routine wasn’t my best, but my goal was just to stay on, and I did that.”
When the all-around scores were added up, Ertl was credited with 37.075 points, one of her best totals of the season. That score was good enough to place her ninth of the 32 all-around entrants.