A seven-year drought came to an end last week, as a pair of Sauk Prairie gymnasts fought through a tough sectional to reach state.

Cynthia Flores and Audrey Pape each punched their ticket to state at the WIAA Div. 2 Sectional in Baraboo on Feb. 23, becoming the first Eagles to qualify for state since Nicole Schoepp competed on the uneven bars in 2010.

Pape advanced in the floor exercise after putting up a personal-best score of 8.725 to tie for fifth overall.

Flores also needed a personal record to advance, using a score of 8.5 on the vault to finish fifth.

Sauk Prairie head coach Justine Anderson didn’t necessarily see it coming.

“I said to my husband that there is no way we would send anyone on vault or floor this year, because those are the most competitive events,” Anderson said. “They proved me wrong. Both girls absolutely earned their spot with the best performances I have seen yet.”

The duo nearly advanced on the uneven bars. Flores took sixth with a score of 7.8, coming up 0.05 points short of qualifying. Pape was right behind, placing seventh (7.75) and finishing 0.1 points short of advancing.

Pape led the way in the all-around, taking eighth with a personal-best score of 31.95, while Flores placed 10th (31.5).

Pape, a sophomore, also took 14th on the balance beam (7.475) and tied for 21st in vaulting (8.0). Flores, senior, placed 17th on the floor exercise (7.825) and tied teammate Madison Marshall for 17th on the balance beam (7.375).

Elsewhere for Sauk Prairie, Kailey Raschka took 11th on the balance beam (7.775) and 15th on the uneven bars (7.0), Hunter Lohr tied for 16th on the uneven bars (6.95), Lexie Fallow tied for 19th on the uneven bars (6.55) and 20th on the balance beam (7.125), and Marshall tied for 16th in vaulting (8.15) and placed 20th on the floor exercise (7.6).

The Eagles had it going from the start, opening the day with a personal-best team score of 32.65 on the vault.

“That event in the first round really set the tone for the rest of the night,” Anderson said.

That fast start allowed the Eagles to finish fourth at sectionals with a team score of 123.725, trailing Dodgeville/Mineral Point (132.375), Viroqua/Cashton/North Crawford (128.45) and Baraboo (126.75).

“The judges also commented on how much better they looked, even just since conference,” Anderson said of the Eagles, who finished sixth out of seven teams at the Badger North Conference meet on Feb. 18. “We spent a lot more time over the last week just working on what to focus on — having fun, doing your best, and being okay with whatever happens. We cannot control the scores, so it does not help to focus on that. Apparently it made a big difference, because they were mentally way more prepared for the stress and pressure.”

While Flores will have one more meet, the rest of Sauk Prairie’s seniors competed in their final event.

“Some of the seniors I think are still in shock that they are done,” Anderson said. “Hunter Lohr kept saying she can’t believe she is ‘retired’ now. However, they have a lot to be proud of with how far they grew in four years and how well the season wrapped up for them. They really left it all on the floor, so as a coach, I could not ask for more.”

State is held at the Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln Fieldhouse, with the team competition being held on Friday and individual competition taking place on Saturday. The Eagles will take the stage when the individual events start at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday.

“Now we have a couple of girls that get to go have some fun with the best of the best at state,” Anderson said.

Follow Brock Fritz on Twitter @BrockFritz

Capital Newspapers Regional Sports Reporter