Ellie Berg has a very simple goal for her Stillwater Area High School gymnastics team this season.
"Our goal is to peak at section meet time," Berg said.
That is a very common theme in high school sports - peak at the right time. And how does Berg anticipate her Ponies can reach that fairly vague goal?
"We will need to stay healthy, increase our difficulty of skills on the bars, and stay on the beam to have a chance to win the section meet," she said.
So it's a pretty simple concept. Now it's time for Stillwater to carry out the plan. The Ponies took their first step Tuesday at the Park Quadrangular.
Danielle Sneden, Stillwater's top gymnast, won the vault with a score of 9.350 and finished well on the other three events to earn fifth place overall with a combined score of 34.050.
She was the top Ponies performer, trailing winner Cristina Ortiz of Park by just over three points. Ortiz won the beam (9.600), was second on the floor (9.650) and third on the uneven bars (9.000) as she won the all-around with 37.150 points.
Ortiz and Danielle White, who was second overall, helped Park win the meet with 145.8 team points. The Ponies were in a battle with Woodbury for the second spot, and by a tenth of a point, Stillwater prevailed, sliding past the Royals 132.85 to 132.75.
Berg will look to Sneden to again lead the Ponies this season. The senior was All-Suburban East Conference last season and All-State, as well as team MVP. She is the Stillwater Area High School all-time record holder in the vault (9.825), floor (9.6), uneven bars (9.675) and the all-around (37.55).
Last year Stillwater was 3-4 in the SEC, and the Ponies lost Megan Weber, Erin Johnson, Brittany Wahlin and Emily Keefer to graduation.
Sneden, Park's Ortiz and White and White Bear Lake's Theresa Lynch should be the top individuals in the conference according the Berg. Park, White Bear Lake and Woodbury are the teams Berg looked for to be tough, but her squad's early-season edging of Woodbury may have put the Ponies on that short list.
Junior Laura Sleiter took eighth in the all-around with a score of 32.800, with Julia Frost (12th, 32.200), Kelsey Yoch (13th, 31.600) and Kelsey Reinke (15th, 31.300) rounding out the Ponies' top performers.