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Wildcats BRC champs

Members of the Wildcat gymnastics team salute the crowd after taking first place at the Big Rivers Conference Championship Meet Friday night in Hudson. From left are Michaela Kramolis, Cat Stewart, Kassidy Snell, Maddie Raverty, Sydney Cernohous, Bailey Kusilek, Sam Krueger, Natalie Swick and Josie Nelson. (Submitted photo)

After going undefeated in Big Rivers Conference dual meets this season, the Wildcat gymnastics team clinched its second straight conference title and seventh in the last nine years by posting a season-best score of 138.225 at the BRC Tournament last Friday in Hudson.

River Falls' score was over four points better than second place Menomonie's 133.925. Eau Claire North/Memorial was third with 131.625.

Head coach Lauren Kaminski said the cats battled illnesses all week leading up to the conference tourney, but it all came together in the end.

"We had three girls out sick late last week and with a team of only 10, three missing makes a big impact," she said. "Fortunately everyone was healthy enough to compete on Friday, and we're hoping that will be the case again this week for Sectionals."

The Cats will compete at the WIAA Division 2 sectional this Saturday, Feb. 25, looking for their 16th straight trip to state, and Kaminski said the defending state runners-up will have their work cut out for them.

"In the recent state rankings that have gone out, our sectional has three of the top five scores in the entire state," she noted. "Only the top two teams at each sectional meet get to make the trip to the state meet and we've got our sights set on that goal. So we know our work is cut out for us this week and we're looking forward to hitting it hard for this last stretch of the season."

Junior Sam Krueger took the all-around title at the conference meet Friday with a total score of 36.325. Krueger was first in the floor routine with a 9.525 and won the vault with a 9.25 while taking second on the balance beam with 9.275 and sixth on the uneven bars with 8.275.

Kaminski said the Wildcats put together one of their best beam sets of the season, with four Cats finishing in the top nine. Cat Stewart overcame a crooked dismount to place ninth with an 8.35, and Maddie Raverty was eighth with 8.375 while Sydney Cernohous was right behind Krueger in third with a season-best 9.1.

"Sydney has taken big strides on beam this year," Kaminski said. "She has excellent presence on the beam and she works hard at it during practice. I'm really happy to see her hit that benchmark score; she really deserved it."

Cernohous was River Falls' top finisher on the uneven bars with a fourth-place score of 8.5 and tied for ninth in the vault with teammate Natalie Swick and two others with an 8.4.

Raverty tied for third in the floor exercise with 9.05 and Swick tied for fifth with 8.95.

"Natalie Swick was pushing through the tail end of illness and did a really great job keeping her focus and persisting, despite not feeling her best," Kaminski said.

In addition to the top two teams advancing to state at Saturday's sectional meet in Menomonie, the top five individuals will also advance to the WIAA State Gymnastics Championships March 3-4 in Wisconsin Rapids.

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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