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Gymnasts do it again

Wildcat freshman Madison Berg stands atop the awards podium and teammate Autumn Tiede (far right) stands in the fifth place spot after both qualified for state at the WIAA Division 2 sectional meet Saturday, Feb. 24, in West Salem. 1 / 2
Wildcat freshman Eva Mikla performs her floor routine at the WIAA Division 2 sectional meet Saturday, Feb. 24, in West Salem. Mikla posted a score of 9.075 in the event to help the Cats capture the sectional team title and qualify for the WIAA State Team Tournament of the 17th straight year. Photos courtesy of Lauren Kaminski 2 / 2

The Wildcat gymnastics team will be making what's become an annual late winter trip to Wisconsin Rapids this weekend when it competes in its 17th straight WIAA State Gymnastics Championships.

River Falls kept its streak alive by winning a Division 2 sectional title last Saturday, Feb. 24, in West Salem with a season high score of 142.425. They will be joined by second place West Salem (140.125) at the state team tournament this Friday, March 2, at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School.

In addition, three Wildcats qualified for the state individual tournament the following day. Senior Sam Krueger will compete in the floor exercise, vault, balance beam and all-around; freshman Autumn Tiede qualified in the floor, vault, bars and all-around; and freshman Madison Berg moved on on the uneven bars.

Head coach Lauren Kaminski said the Wildcats had a great day last Saturday in West Salem.

"The team has come a long way this season as far as their meet composure," she said. "They maintained great energy all day despite this being a potentially nerve-wracking meet, determining whether we get to make the trip to state. To score 142 two meets in a row and at the end of the season puts us right where we need to be. Our consistency has been honed in and we're peaking just in time to finish out the season."

Krueger will be competing for her third straight state championship in the floor exercise after winning the sectional title with a score of 9.7. She scored a state record 9.83 in the event last year to win her second state title.

Krueger also won the sectional vault competition with a score of 9.4 and the balance beam with 9.575. She added an eighth place score of 8,275 on the bars to win the all-around title with a total of 36.95. Krueger placed third in the all-around at state a year ago.

"This will be Sam's fourth trip to individual state and she's poised to bring home a medal or two again," Kaminski said. "She's a two-time defending floor champ and will be in medal contention for all of her other three events as well. She's had an incredible career so far and looking to end it on a high note."

Tiede will also compete in four events at individual state after placing third on the floor (9.4), fourth in the vault (9.0), fifth on the bars (8.6), and fifth in the all-around (34.765).

"Autumn Tiede had really great performances on vault, bars, and floor," Kaminski said. "She unfortunately had two falls on beam, so to still be able to make the podium for all-around in a very competitive sectional was a big accomplishment."

Berg punched her ticket to individual state by winning the sectional title on the uneven bars with a score of 9.2.

"I'm excited for all of our individual qualifiers," Kaminski said.

Kaminski said the Cats stuck three of their five routines on the balance beam, with freshman Isabel Seyffer contributing a seventh place score of 8.7 and freshman Eva Mikla ninth with 8.375.

"Eva Mikla again proved to be a solid starter on beam, an important spot in the lineup," Kaminski noted.

Seyffer added a personal best score of 8.325 on the uneven bars to finish one spot away from qualifying for state while sophomore Michaela Kramolis earned a personal best score of 8.6 in the vault to place 11th.

"Isabel Seyffer had her cleanest, most powerful bar routine of the season," Kaminski said. "And Michaela Kramolis worked hard all week to improve her vault and improved her score by three and a half tenths."

Kaminski said she felt bad for junior Natalie Swick, who just missed out on earning a trip to state in the floor exercise with a score of 9.15, two-tenths away from the fifth and final individual qualifying spot.

"We were followed by West Salem and several of their scores put her just out of the running," Kaminski said. "She has had a great season on floor and has worked hard to upgrade her vault, so to see her miss that opportunity by such a close margin was a heartbreaker."

The Cats, sate runner-up a year ago, will compete in the state team tournament this Friday, March 2, beginning at 1:35 p.m. at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School. Individual state competition is set for Saturday, March 3, at 10:45 a.m.

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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