Individual state meet
A deep breath was all that was needed on Saturday as the East Ridge and Park gymnasts prepared for the individual state meet at the Maturi Pavilion on the University of Minnesota's campus.
That long breath allowed the gymnasts to focus on their routine for the couple seconds or couple minutes needed to complete the event. For the majority of these gymnasts, it wasn't a new experience but it's always an experience they look forward to each season.
"It's really special to share this moment with a teammate because it helps you feel more comfortable," said Park's senior Brenna Sommerland. "We were here together last season, so to do it again is really fun."
Sommerland and Park senior Mandy Hafner were the two Wolfpack gymnasts competing on Saturday with each in one event. East Ridge had five gymnasts competing in the evening with two doing all-around, one doing two events and the other two doing one event.
Senior Cassie Kahrer and freshman Hailey Tretter did the all-around, while junior Lexie Corcoran competed in uneven bars and floor. Senior Hannah Walker and eighth-grader Lauren Rodriguez competed in the vault and floor respectively.
"This was a big learning experience for me since this was my first time at individual state," Rodriguez said. "Now, I hope to come back here in future seasons."
Kahrer and Sommerland went home on Saturday night with some hardware as Kahrer earned fourth in all-around and tied for fourth in floor. Sommerland ended the night in fifth place on the beam and made the podium. Every gymnast was happy with how they ended their season or their high school careers.
Park's head coach Alison Flaata wanted Hafner and Sommerland to focus on one thing. That was to have fun.
"This week we made sure to tell them to have fun because it's their last meet of their careers," Flaata said. "They deserve to end their careers on a high note and that's exactly what they did tonight. These two show true characteristics of great gymnasts because they work hard every day and push each other to reach goals like making it to state. It'll be sad to see them go, but their futures are so bright ahead."
For four of these gymnasts, this was their last meet of their high school careers. That phrase hadn't hit them yet when talking to the two teams, but looking back on a gymnastics career it's been a memorable one.
Most of these girls started gymnastics at a young age and developed their way to making either the East Ridge or Park gymnastics teams. At the two high schools, the four of them grew from mistakes early in their careers or by the guidance of their coaches.
"There are too many moments from gymnastics to pick out one single moment," Kahrer said. "Some of my best memories from high school happened on the gymnastics team."
That quote was repeated by every senior on Saturday night because they each put in the time and the effort to reach the state tournament year in and year out.
For Hafner, she hopes the Wolfpack gymnasts realize how much work she put into practices both during season and during the offseason. Each second counts and Hafner hopes that she influence these young Wolfpack gymnasts to continue working hard and reach the state tournament in the future.
"I just hope these girls continue to work hard for their future goals," Hafner said. "If so, the state tournament will come shortly."
Sommerland and Walker both agreed that they aren't sure what they will do on Monday after school because their won't be gymnastics practice. Ever.
They will head back home while the sun is still in the sky and will need to find something else to do. This sport has consumed the lives of Kahrer, Walker, Sommerland and Hafner for many years that stopping the sport is really hard to do.
"You learn to love the sport each year and you work hard each day that these years just fly by," Walker said. "It's been a fun sport to be a part of and I'm not sure what Monday will be like until I actually reach that point."
For Tretter, Corcoran and Rodriguez, the offseason begins and the focus goes to making team state for a sixth straight time and coming back for individuals once again. Tretter said the offseason starts Monday as they head back to the gym and start working on new skills.
"Our senior class is amazing and these girls are true leaders both in and out of the gym," said East Ridge's head coach Caroline Urgo. "I couldn't be more proud of what they've done in their high school careers, but I'm more excited to see them grow into the future years."
The four senior gymnasts have one simple message to the younger high school gymnasts. That message is to enjoy every aspect of this sport because it's a hard sport to pick up later in life.
They said to enjoy every moment at practice with teammates or trying new skills because these moments will be what you remember in your lifetime.
Team state meet
Fourth in the state.
East Ridge gymnastics coach Caroline Urgo kept repeating that statement in her head and also out loud to the gymnasts.
As she did, smiles started to appear on the girls' faces. There were plenty of high-fives and hugs exchanged between the gymnasts and coaches.
"It's such an honor being able to represent your school at the highest stage in the state," said Cassie Kahrer. "We had such a fun time and we left everything out there."
The Raptors has the team portion of the state gymnastics meet on Friday night at the Maturi Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus. This was East Ridge's fifth straight season reaching the team competition and this year they placed fourth overall.
"I couldn't be more proud of these girls," Urgo said. "They worked so hard to get here and deserve to be competing here tonight. It's been such a fun season with these girls."
This week has been a lot of fun for girls as they had a pep fest at East Ridge to recognize the teams going to state. They knew there was fan support from the school and they made sure to bring that with them to the meet on Friday night.
On Friday, there were some nerves along with excitement. The girls went to school in the morning and had lunch together before heading to the University of Minnesota.
They tried to make it feel like any other meet, but most of them understand what was coming later on Friday night.
"The hard work is over," said Hannah Walker. "Now it's time to enjoy the moment because we worked so hard to get to this point."
East Ridge had a tough draw to start the state meet as the Raptors started their rotation with beam. The girls agreed that they noticed some nerves while on the beam, but overall they thought they did well. The team's beam score totaled 35.400.
Then, the Raptors went to the floor and had strong exercises from all five gymnasts to make a total score of 37.275. That score gave them some confidence and momentum heading into the final two events of the night.
"Floor was big for us because we were able to take a deep breath and gain some confidence," said Lexie Corcoran. "That helped us heading into vault and bars."
And it certainly helped as East Ridge had strong outings on the vault and bars to round out the team competition. On the vault, the Raptors had a score of 37.650, while the bars had a total score of 35.775.
Urgo said she was very impressed by the uneven bar event as each girl stuck their landing and ended the night on a very strong note.
This opportunity at state wouldn't be possible though without the tradition that East Ridge gymnastics has built over the last five years. This is the fifth straight state meet for the Raptors and it's become an expectation rather than a hope each season.
The gymnastics team has developed a tradition at East Ridge and girls have followed wanting to compete at a high level. Every year, the team gains young gymnasts and loses seniors, but the talent is always there to come back to state each and every year.
Next year, the goal will be to add onto the streak and make it six years in a row that the Raptors reach state as a team. They will be losing two key gymnasts in their starting rotation, but Urgo is confident that the younger girls will step up.
"As a freshman, I've learned so much this season as a gymnast from some of the older girls," said Hailey Tretter. "I just look forward to continuing passing down the traditions and expectations to the younger gymnasts coming in next season."