All signs are pointing toward a prosperous season for the Baraboo High School gymnastics team.
The Thunderbirds ended last season with some dissatisfaction, as they competed well at sectionals but fell less than two points shy of qualifying for the state meet as a team. Baraboo still sent two gymnasts to the individual state meet, but this season coach Tammy Porter said her team, which opens the season today with a meet against Milton, wants more.
“We missed (state) by that painful point and a half. We have our goals set already and we’re already looking at (Milton), and we’re not taking a loss,” she said. “But overall our season goal is the same: We’re going to kick butt.”
One thing going for the T-Birds is their depth, as Chloe Feld was the only senior lost to graduation. Baraboo returns a plethora of talent, including returning state qualifiers Brittany Reuter and Jamie Runnels. The Thunderbirds have already got a feel for their overall scores, as the team just finished “mock meet week,” where volunteer judges come in and score the gymnasts. Porter said Reuter is one of several returning competitors who are already in midseason form.
“We’re already I’d say, by far, above where we started last year,” Porter said. “When the volunteer judge came in, who is actually a high school judge, she had Brittany at an 8.9 on floor, which is huge. And she actually had up to probably five-tenths of mistakes that she and I could count. So Brittany is looking at huge scores (this season).”
Reuter, a sophomore, qualified for state on the uneven bars last winter, while Runnels is 2-for-2 in state appearances, as the junior has qualified on vault twice.
“Jamie’s back; she’s battling some illness right now, so she’s not 100 percent,” Porter said. “When we travel to Milton (today), she’s only going to do bars and vault for us just because it’s not safe for her to be on everything yet.”
Injuries plagued the Thunderbirds last season, as Reuter’s sister, Meghan, dislocated her elbow at an invite in December and Mia Burkhalter broke her elbow. Porter said Meghan Reuter is fully recovered, while Burkhalter is still healing.
“We’ve got Mia back this year. She’s not back 100 percent on everything; a couple of events she’s JV right now. But she’s back on varsity bars which is huge for us. That’s going to bring in a nice score,” Porter said. “She’s a beautiful bar swinger, and she’s got almost full difficulty requirements on the beam right now, which is huge because she was our highest beam scorer last year without anything.”
Other key returners include sophomore Bella Vedro, a solid floor exercise performer who gives the T-Birds consistently high scores on vault and beam as well. Porter said Vedro was at an 8.5 during mock meet week on the floor — “and that was with mistakes.”
Seniors Tristen Klitzke and Sidney Seymour serve as two consistent gymnasts for the varsity squad as well, while sophomore Jenny Arias and freshman Tierney Becker are likely to get varsity time. Other gymnasts fighting for varsity spots include junior Destina Warner, junior Sabrina Kalscheuer and sophomore Abby Kingcade.
“Tierney Becker has a lot of potential,” Porter said. “She actually qualified for varsity floor for (the Milton meet). She’s a strong bar swinger, too, so with some work, we’ll get there.”
Baraboo’s most successful event last season was the floor exercise which will be a strength once again, while the uneven bars was the weakest. Porter said some rule changes this year on the bars will make things more difficult, but she is hopeful her team will produce high scores.
“They’re cracking down on different components of the bar routine, which we can’t really afford to have that, but we’re going to work through it,” Porter said. “We’ve already been working on it; we’ve prepped for it since day one, so I think we’ll be OK.”
After Tuesday’s meet in Milton, Baraboo will host its lone home invitational on Saturday at Baraboo High School.