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Gymnasts make it 14 straight to state

Wildcat sophomore Kelly Maier soars high above the balance beam at last Friday night's sectional meet at the high school gym. Maier tied for ninth with a score of 8.55 to help the Cats qualify for this weekend's WIAA state tournament in Wisconsin Rapids. <i>Bob Burrows photos</i>1 / 2
Wildcat freshman Brianna Kubic performs on the uneven bars at Friday night's sectional meet in River Falls. Kubic tied for seventh with a score of 8.275 to help the Cats qualify for this weekend's WIAA state tournament in Wisconsin Rapids.2 / 2

The tradition continues.

The Wildcat gymnastics team, under first-year coaches Rachel Paulson and Lauren Brathol, qualified for its 14th straight WIAA State Gymnastics Tournament Friday, Feb. 22 by finishing second at the sectional meet in River Falls.

The Cats finished with a total score of 138.725, just behind sectional champion Rice Lake/Cumberland's score of 138.825.

Paulson and Brathol were both members of Wildcat state championship teams themselves under former coaches Shelly Kahut-Loomis and Brian Whipple. Now head coach Paulson said they are proud this year's team will vie for a state title again.

"The team has amazing energy," she said. "They know that they need to rely on one another for support and were outstanding teammates on Friday. As coaches, we were thrilled with the routines and the way the team carried themselves throughout the meet."

In addition to qualifying as a team, senior Riley Claude and junior Karlie Place both qualified for the state meet as individuals.

Claude, the defending state champion in the all-around and uneven bars, took first in both events Friday as well as the balance beam and floor exercise, while Place secured her spot at state with a fourth place finish in the vault.

"Both are very excited to show off their routines at state," Paulson said.

The Cats hit all five of their routines on the uneven bars Friday, led by Claude's first place and season-high score of 9.45. Freshman Brianna Kubic tied for seventh with a score of 8.275 and sophomore Karin Sollom finished tenth with an 8.2. Place posted a score of 8.0 and sophomore Kelly Maier finished with a 7.75.

The Cats highest team score of the meet came in the floor exercise, where Claude led the way with a first place score of 9.35. Junior Kinsy Sylla finished eighth with a personal best score of 9.05 and Place was ninth with 8.9 while freshman Alyssa Paulson added a personal best score of 8.775 and senior Lauren Slowiak had an 8.05.

Claude posted a winning score of 9.175 on the balance beam while Maier tied for ninth with an 8.55. Sylla scored 7.975 and Sollom had a 7.875 while junior Taylor Rose scored 7.85.

In the vault, Claude placed third with a season-high score of 9.375 and Place was fourth with 9.3. Sollom contributed a score of 8.45 and freshman Sonja Kelly had an 8.025 while senior Anita Fraser contributed a 7.9.

Paulson said a number of individuals stepped up after the Cats lost junior Reilly Myklebust, who was injured in a car accident the morning of the meet.

"Although there were a few small mistakes the girls did well at putting those things behind them and focusing on the current event," she said.

Claude and Place will compete in the individual state tournament 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 1, at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School. The team portion of the state tournament takes place 11 a.m. Saturday, March 2.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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