WISCONSIN RAPIDS – It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
That’s the mantra Waupun’s prep gymnastics relied upon after not hitting its potential in the first two events Friday at the WIAA Division 2 state meet held at Lincoln High School.
“After that rough (balance) beam rotation (in the second event), we gave the girls a little pep talk and reminded them this is why we have four events, and floor (exercise) and vault are usually our best,” Warriors’ assistant coach Emily Engelhardt said via email. “We were just getting in the groove and working out some kinks.”
Patience and staying the course paid off.
The Warriors ended far better than they began, taking eighth out of the 10 teams with a score of 128.3667 but more importantly leaving with a feeling of accomplishment.
“Excited. Happy. Proud. That about sums up how (head coach) Jane (Neevel) and I feel about this weekend,” Engelhardt said. “We said we just wanted to go have fun and do ‘our thing,’ and for the most part, we really did.”
Waupun did “OK, not our best,” on the bars, Engelhardt said, “but seniors Megan Hansen and Sara Kroeze pulled out a nice routine each to finish us out well.”
Engelhardt said that on the beam, “while we didn’t have a lot of falls, the ones we did have cost us pretty big and we missed a lot of connections, which left a lot of points on the table.”
Freshman Sara Miller overcome “a mishap on bars to start us out with a solid no-fall beam routine,” Engelhardt said of Miller’s score of 7.733.
Hansen “stuck her final beam routine (of her career) and despite a few mistakes, she had an 8.05 for the team’s highest score,” Engelhardt said.
That’s when things really got going for Waupun.
Grace Lenz had a personal-best 8.733, Emily Rens (8.517) and Emily Matravers (8.4) both almost set PRs, helping Waupun to a season-high score of 34.517 in the floor exercise.
Also in floor, Hansen’s final routine of her career was “a testament to her seniority and grace” and Isabella Doege “filled in nicely under pressure” for an injured Sara Kroeze, Engelhardt said.
Hansen had an 8.7 and Doege had an 8.567 filling in after Kroeze was injured in beam competition.
Putting a bow on their day, the Warriors were third out of the 10 teams in the vault with a score of 33.8.
Doege led the way with an 8.567, followed by Hansen (8.5), Kroeze (8.417), Eryn Hautamaki (8.317), and Lenz (8.3).
“We wrapped Sara Kroeze’s knee and she really stepped up to finish strong for her team,” Engelhardt said.
Hansen and Kroeze, the only two seniors on the team, were Waupun’s steadying hand on Friday after those two were also on last year’s state team.
“We could tell (they) were much more prepared for the intensity of competition this year and really helped the underclassmen settle in,” Engelhardt said.
On Saturday during the individual competition, Doege took ninth in the bars and Hautamaki took 10th in the vault, both with PRs of the exact same score of 8.767.
Of Hautamaki, Engelhardt said, “Every meet, she just gets a little better. And (Saturday) was no exception.”
Meantime, Doege’s previous best in the bars was an 8.175.
Saturday’s competition was highlighted by Eryn’s & Izzy’s PR’s.
“We knew she had the potential to score this high if she did her routine as it was designed,” Engelhardt said. “And boy did she. What a fantastic way to end a great season.”
Senior Chloe Harmsen “stepped in as an assistant this weekend, and she, Sara, and Megan will most definitely be missed next year,” Engelhardt said.
“They truly helped pave the way for our back-to-back (state) appearances, and modeled grace under pressure to the younger team members,” Engelhardt added. “Our future sure looks bright, and we couldn’t be more excited for what the next few seasons will bring.”