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Members of the Wildcat gymnastics team take to the podium after earning the state runner-up trophy at the WIAA State Gymnastics Team Tournament Saturday in Wisconsin Rapids.Submitted photo

Gymnasts state runner-up

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sports River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Wildat gymnastics coach Shelly Kahut-Loomis said it best after the Cats had eight falls during the balance beam competition at Saturday's WIAA State Team Tournament in Wisconsin Rapids.

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"I guess you don't get to fall that many times and be champions," she said.

Even with the eight falls, the Cats still came within 0.1167 of winning their fifth state championship. Whitefish Bay won the 2009 title with a score of 141.7667 while the Wildcats finished second with 141.6500. It's the fourth state runner-up finish for the Cats, who have qualified for the state tournament 19 times since its inception in 1971.

"We went there to win," Kahut-Loomis said. "Of course it didn't turn out how we wanted, but we're extremely proud. We stayed together and fought till the end."

The Cats bounced back from their performance on the balance beam by posting their highest team score of the tournament -- 36.483 -- in the floor exercise. Senior co-captain Rachel Paulson led the way with a 9.383 and junior Carly Jerry scored 9.217 while senior co-captain Maggie Bloom finished with 9.1 and senior Emmy Johnson scored 8.783.

Paulson said the team didn't get down after struggling on the beam.

"I'm glad we were able to pull it together for the floor," she said. "We definitely weren't going to give up. I'm proud of the team for that."

The Cats started on the vault and scored 36.05, led by Paulson's 9.333. Junior Kali Kramolis followed with 9.183, Jerry added a 9.017 and Johnson and freshman Sierra Becker both scored 8.517.

The Cats put together a score of 35.783 on the uneven bars with Paulson scoring 9.4, Kramolis 8.933, freshman Ruth Anderson-Benge 8.767 and Jerry 8.683.

"We had a great first half of the meet," Kahut-Loomis said. "Our vault was great and our bars was one of the best we've ever done. They all had just beautiful bars routines."

But then came the balance beam.

"It was probably the worst beam of the whole year," Kahut-Loomis said.

Johnson was the lone Wildcat to stay on for her entire routine and finished with a score of 8.5. Paulson scored 8.733 despite a fall while Bloom and Kramolis each finished with scores of 8.05.

Kahut-Loomis said she was proud her team was still in a position to win despite its struggles.

"We set our goals high," she said. "And to have eight falls and still be right there, that says a lot about this team."

Kahut-Loomis said the team will miss its three seniors -- Paulson, Bloom and Johnson -- next year.

"Rachel coming back really added a spark," she said about Paulson, who sat out her junior year after helping the Cats win their last state title in 2007. "She was the team's vocal leader. The other two lead more by example."

Kahut-Loomis said the team wanted to congratulate the St. Croix Valley Fusion girls' hockey team for bring a state championship to River Falls, and thanked the fans who made the trip to Wisconsin Rapids to cheer on the Wildcat gymnasts.

"For the first time we had a fan bus," she said. "We had over 36 kids and with all the parents and family, it was one of our biggest cheering sections ever."

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