Mount Horeb rebounds to finish second at WIAA Division 2 state gymnastics meet

March 3, 2019

WISCONSIN RAPIDS — The Mount Horeb gymnastics team understood the challenge it faced attempting to dethrone three-time defending WIAA Division 2 state champion Whitefish Bay on Friday night.

After a couple Mount Horeb gymnasts had shaky performances on their second event — the balance beam — that struggle became even more difficult for the Vikings during the team portion of the state gymnastics meet at Wisconsin Rapids High School.

But Mount Horeb bounced back after hearing encouraging words from coach Martha Koller Faust, later turned in the high score on the floor exercise and claimed the Division 2 runner-up trophy.

“I’m really proud with how the team has pulled through this season,” Mount Horeb junior Elisa Weier said. “I know there were some difficulties to work over, even today, but I’m really proud with how everyone kept their chins up, and kept trying their best in achieving our goal.”

Whitefish Bay totaled a division-record 145.20 points and won its fourth consecutive championship and seventh in the past nine years. Mount Horeb had 141.0833 points in posting its best finish since winning the title in 2015.

“They were very strong and we knew they would be,” Koller Faust said about the Whitefish Bay gymnasts. “I couldn’t have asked for more (from her team). We had a couple bumps along the way. And after we had a couple things on beam that didn’t go our way, we talked to the girls and said, ‘We are going to bounce back. We’ve got two events left. We can’t re-do it. Keep those chins up and get out there and show them what we’ve got on floor and vault.’ And they did that, absolutely.”

The Vikings rebounded in their third event by scoring 37.133 on floor, best in Division 2. Sophomore Drea O’Connell led Mount Horeb with 9.417, which was the top floor score in the division.

“We worked really hard to get here and I think everybody just gave it their best,” O’Connell said. “And no matter what the outcome was, we were all going to be proud of each other. We knew we could do it together. We are just really proud of what we accomplished.”

Vikings freshman Ella Peterson opened on floor with 9.067, followed by freshman Lexie Weier (9.183), sophomore Grace O’Neil (9.25), Elisa Weier (9.283) and O’Connell.

“That was right after the beam,” Koller Faust said. “Our first girl Ella started off with a ‘9’ and it just kept going up from there. It’s true if you have a strong start, the rest of the girls will feed of that.”

Dodgeville/Mineral Point finished seventh in Division 2 with 133.75 points.

In Division 1, the Franklin co-op totaled 148.2833 points and earned its fourth consecutive title and eighth in the past nine years. The Burlington co-op (144.2167) finished second and Hartford (142.25) took third.

This state competition is scheduled to be the final one for the large co-operative programs that have dominated gymnastics for decades.

Madison Memorial earned ninth place with 131.30 points, while Middleton was 10th with 130.7667.

“(Uneven) bars were a little rougher than we would have liked,” said Madison Memorial coach Michele Fuller, the Big Eight Conference Coach of the Year. “But to finish on beam and stick five-for-five, that’s a great ending to the state meet.”

The Spartans had their best results on beam (33.667), led by junior Tea Hellen’s 9.183, and vaulting (33.667), led by sophomore Jessie Kahn (8.583) and Hellen (8.483).

Middleton also had its top marks on beam (33.350), led by senior Jordan Baggot’s 8.933, and vaulting (32.917) — again led by Baggot (8.867), who was the Big Eight co-gymnast of the year with Madison West senior Alex DeAngeles.

“I thought they did great,” said Middleton coach Kari Steck, who is expecting a baby in two weeks. “I think we were just really happy to be here because we didn’t think we’d qualify. So, we were just happy to be here and happy to have one last meet together with this group. It’s an awesome group of girls. It’s our last week with Jordan and it’s one last team-bonding experience, which is great.”

WIAA assistant director Stephanie Hauser, the tournament manager, said on Friday that April 1 is the deadline for current co-op teams to notify the WIAA about their plans for next year.

Co-op programs between only two schools still will be allowed.

But co-ops of three or more schools, whose combined enrollment is larger than the smallest solo school in the division, will not be eligible for team competition. However, their athletes will be eligible for individual titles.