Gymnastics places second in Whitewater

Sydney Mohr, Features Editor

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The Winona State University gymnastics team took second-place in their first dual conference meet of the year in Whitewater, Wisconsin on Saturday, Jan. 26.

The team went up against University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Gustavus Adolphus College.

Head Coach Becki Rolbiecki was ecstatic about the results of the meet, especially after some hardships that took over during the beginning of the season.

“Some early season injuries have hampered a few of the freshmen that we expect strong performances from,” Rolbiecki said. “We are working them back into our practices and are excited to see them start to grow. This weekend has really proven that they are healing and getting close to being back on the floor at full strength.”

The meet started off on vault, where junior Kennedy Utz and sophomore Shelsea Zehr tied for ninth-place with Brooke Merila from Gustavus Adolphus with a score of 9.200, the highest scoring Warrior athletes of that event.

First-year Katie Curtis took 17th with a score of 8.975 and first-year Maya Fernando took 18th with a score of 8.250 on vault.

The Warriors moved next to uneven parallel bars, where sophomore Anna Hiller managed to grab the fifth-place spot with a score of 9.300. First-year athletes Hannah Matuszak and Hailey Bryant, along with junior Sunny Hasebe, took seventh, eighth (Hasebe) and ninth (Matuszak) in bars, with scores of 8.975, 8.950 and 8.750, respectively

Rolbiecki also talked about how hard it is to return from winter break and jump right back into meets.

“It’s always hard on a team when we have the Christmas break come at a time when the kids are looking polished and ready,” Rolbiecki said. “When we returned from break we had some work to do to get back to what we had. Now that we are back on a regular schedule and have a meet each week to use as a measuring stick for our growth, it becomes a lot easier to get the kids motivated and fired up about showing what we’ve got.”

Balance beam proved to be one of the best events of the night for the Warriors, as junior Kelly Johnston tied with UW-Whitewater’s Vanessa Olinger for third place with a score of 9.475. Sophomore Cora Geiger and Hasebe took sixth and seventh place, with scores of 9.375 and 9.225.

Finally, Winona State took to floor exercise, where Utz scored a 9.500 to tie for third place with UW-Whitewater’s Erika Briscoe. First-year Kaitlyn West placed behind her in fifth with a score of 9.475. Zehr took ninth place with a 9.325, followed by first-year Katie Curtis in 12th with a 9.250, first-year Mackenzie Velarde with an 8.700 in 14th and Bryant in 17th with an 8.450 to finish off the meet.

The team was defeated by UW-Whitewater with a score of 183.375 and defeated Gustavus Adolphus, who pulled in a 180.525. The margins for the meet were extremely close and the Warriors lost by just a hair.

Sophomore Anna Hiller shared her thoughts with the Winonan after the meet.

“After this weekend, I feel good about where we are. We did make mistakes but overall we improved our score and many individuals had big improvements from our last meet,” Hiller said. “We ended on floor and put out a very strong performance that helped boost our team score. I can’t wait to continue the season and see how much more we can improve.”

Rolbiecki couldn’t agree more with Hiller’s assessment.

“We have a great foundation to build from and I expect that this team will only continue to grow and develop right up till the Regional meet,” Rolbiecki said.

The Warriors will be back in action this Friday, Feb. 1, as they travel to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for a meet against University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh. The meet will start at 6 p.m.