Gymnasts to state…againTen years ago this week the River Falls High School gymnastics team won the very first team state championship in school history.
By: Bob Burrows, River Falls Journal
Ten years ago this week the River Falls High School gymnastics team won the very first team state championship in school history.
Since then, the program has added four more state titles to its rich history. This year’s team will look to make it a half-dozen championships in 11 years when it competes at the WIAA State Gymnastics Tournament this Saturday in Wisconsin Rapids.
The Wildcats clinched their 11th straight trip to state, and 22nd total, by winning the WIAA Division 2 Sectional championship last Saturday in Galesville with a score of 142.1. Holmen took second with 140.775 and also advanced to state. Only Mt. Horeb, with 25 appearances, has made more trips to the state gymnastics meet than the Wildcats.
In addition, River Falls will be represented by four gymnasts — junior Riley Claude, junior Paige Skorseth, sophomore Karlie Place and freshman Karin Sollom — at Friday night’s state individual competition.
“The individual competition in this sectional was highly competitive,” head coach Shelly Kahut-Loomis said. “Forty gymnasts competed for the five spots in each event that advanced to state. We ended up getting four girls through individually in eight spots.”
Claude, Skorseth and Place all won regional titles Saturday. Claude won the uneven bars with a score of 9.525 and Skorseth took the floor exercise championship with a score of 9.35 while Place earned her title in the vault with a score of 9.2.
Claude also qualified for the state individual tournament on the floor with a third place score of 9.25, vault with a fourth place score of 8.95, and the all-around, with a second place score of 35.975.
“Riley has been dominant in the all-around this year, and her bars routine is really top notch,” Kahut-Loomis said. “She has been battling a heel injury and it caused her some problems at sectionals. She took two uncharacteristic falls on beam and a fall on vault. We are looking for Riley to pull it all together next weekend.”
In addition to her individual title in the floor exercise, Skorseth also qualified for state on the balance beam with a second place score of 9.35.
“Paige is a very consistent and confident performer,” Kahut-Loomis said. “Her routines were performed without error, and it’s really enjoyable to watch her compete.”
Both Claude and Skorseth return to the state individual tournament after placing in the top six in their respective events a year ago.
Place is making her first trip to the state individual championships after winning the sectional title in the vault.
“She was part of the team competition last year on vault and floor,” Kahut-Loomis noted. “She has really brought on the power and confidence in her vault at the right time.”
Sollom earned her spot at state on the uneven bars by finishing fifth with a score of 8.4, just edging teammate Ruthie Anderson-Benge, who scored 8.35, for the final qualifying position.
“It’s a great opportunity for a freshman to get the experience of competing amongst the best on individual night,” Kahut-Loomis said. “Her bars routine has progressed all season.”
Kahut-Loomis said she felt bad for the team’s three seniors — Anderson-Benge, Rose Tashjian and Amanda Guise — who all came up just short of earning individual state qualifying spots.
“The highlight was that all seniors hit all of their routines, but due to the nature of the ‘subjectiveness’ in this sport, when it all came down, they all had fell just short of an individual spot. Both Rose and Amanda finished in the top 10 of a very competitive floor exercise field.”
The seniors, along with the individual qualifiers and freshman Kelly Maier in the vault and sophomore Taylor Rose on the balance beam, will all get the chance to bring home a team state championship in Saturday’s competition.
“I think it is awesome for a team, and this group of girls, to have the opportunity, to have the goal, to fight for the top spot,” Kahut-Loomis said. “They have worked hard to earn the honor, now they get to enjoy the excitement and enthusiasm of the state meet experience.”
Kahut-Loomis said she and assistant coach Brian Whipple, who both coached the Wildcats’ very first state title team ten years ago, can’t help but feel a little nostalgic heading into the weekend.
“It would be a special finish if we would add the sixth championship on the anniversary of that very first team,” she said.
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