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Winter wonders: Wildcats win home invite

Wildcat freshman Autumn Tiede soars high over the balance beam at the annual River Falls Gymnastics Winter Wonderland Invitational Saturday, Jan. 13, at the high school. Tiede scored 7.925 in the event to help the Wildcat Gold team to a first place finish at the 12-team event. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
Wildcat senior Sam Krueger performs her way to a school record score of 9.9 on the balance beam at the Cats' annual Winter Wonderland Invitational Saturday, Jan. 13, at the high school. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

The Wildcat gymnastics team always wants to have a good showing at its annual home invitational, so is it any surprise they turned in a season-high score at this year's event?

Boosted by a record-setting performance by senior Sam Krueger, the Wildcats put together a score of 139.375, one point better than second place Chisago Lakes, to capture first place at the 12-team Winter Wonderland Invitational Saturday, Jan. 13, at the high school.

Krueger wowed the crowd by breaking her own school record on the balance beam with a 9.9, good enough to help her break Rachel Paulson's eight year-old school record of 37.625 in the all-around with a new mark of 37.925.

Wildcat coach Lauren Kaminski said Krueger's beam performance was one of many highlights of the day.

"She had an immaculate, confident routine with obviously very little to deduct," Kaminski noted. "But to see a 9.9 flash was incredible. That's just a score you don't see.

"You couldn't find someone more deserving than Sam," her coach added. "She enjoyed her moment with that 9.9 score, but then she moved on and was over at floor cheering on her teammates. She is an incredible athlete, but also a wonderful person and teammate."

Among the other highlights Kaminski pointed to were junior Natalie Swick landing a new vault for the first time for a seventh place score of 8.75, freshman Madison Berg landing a new dismount on the bars for a sixth place score of 8.8, and junior Kassidy Snell sticking her beam routine for a personal best and seventh place score of 8.8.

"The girls did a great job performing and keeping high-energy throughout the day, as they usually do at this meet, so now we'll be looking to keep up that same momentum to carry us through the rest of the regular season," Kaminski said.

Krueger, the two-time defending state champion in the floor exercise, won the event Saturday with a score of 9.775 while adding a second place score of 9.45 in the vault and fourth place score of 8.8 on bars.

Freshman Autumn Tiede boosted the Cats' team total with a third place score of 9.1 on floor and took seventh on vault with 8.975 while Isabel Seyffer finished sixth on floor with an 8.925 and Snell was seventh with 8.9.

Kaminski said even though there was plenty to be happy about Saturday, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

"Even though the meet had a lot of excitement and a great outcome, we always have room to improve," she said. "We hit 50 percent stuck routines on beam between our gold and silver teams, but only two of those were on the gold team. So, we've still got plenty of work to get our consistency where it needs to be."

The Cats will get back to work at the Rice Lake Invitational this Saturday, Jan. 20, before returning to Rice Lake for a Big Rivers Conference dual Thursday, Jan. 25. Kaminski said she hopes last Saturday's home invite will be a springboard to the rest of the season.

"We hit a season high team score, and got back on track with our team performance and goals," she said.

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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