Gymnastics: Ponies kick off season with victory over Bears
OAK PARK HEIGHTS — The Stillwater gymnastics team overcame the typical uneasiness that comes with the season opener to record a 130.625-116.575 Suburban East Conference victory over White Bear Lake on Thursday at Stillwater Area High School.
Kylie Wittl delivered the top score for the Ponies (1-0 SEC, 1-0) in three of four events and easily won the all-around with a score of 34.625. Newcomer Lillyan Pan turned in a top score of 8.925 in the vault, which is Stillwater’s best event, and ranked second in the all-around with a score of 31.9.
“The first meet is always nerve-wracking, as we never feel totally prepared,” Ponies coach Traci Swenson said. “With a lot of new girls on the team, and many girls doing new skills or new routines, we didn’t know what to expect.”
The Ponies had little to worry about, as it turns outs, after posting its highest score in the opening event. Alex Holmberg followed Pan in the vault with a score of 8.9 while Wittl (8.8) and seventh-grader Lauren Thole (8.5) also provided solid scores to give the Ponies a 35.125 total in the event.
“We have been very excited during the first few weeks to have eight girls in the gym working on and preparing tsukahara vaults,” Swenson said. “It’s been many years since we had a full varsity line-up with flipping vaults. We expected that vault would be our best event this season, but we could tell it was the start of the season.
“All five of our varsity vaulters competed tsukahara vaults, but only two — Alex Holmberg and Lillyan Pan, in her first meet on our team — were able to hold on to the landings. Despite this we know that the experience of competing the difficult vaults will be beneficial for the rest of the season.”
Stillwater followed vault with the uneven bars, its most difficult event. Wittl led the way for the Ponies with an 8.55 and Sidnee Ronsberg followed with a 7.65.
“Bars is our most challenging event, and we had some rule changes this year that made it more difficult to get big scores on bars,” Swenson said. “Kylie had had some difficulty during bars warm-ups, but she had no problems in the meet. Though she didn’t compete her more-difficult dismount, her routine was clean and solid.”
The Ponies took several falls in their team score in the beam, but still outscored White Bear Lake by more than six points (31.8-25.3) in the event. Wittl’s score of 8.7 was tops for Stillwater while Matschi followed with an 8.1.
“We also had some mistakes on beam,” Swenson said. “Our first three gymnasts, Lillyan, Natalie (Jantschek) and Scottland (Adkins) each had one fall. Sami followed, and changed the momentum, with a stuck routine. She had some slight errors and hesitations in connections, but was clean. Kylie anchored beam for us as well, also sticking her routine. Both Sami and Kylie had a couple of skills that they left out of their routines. Putting those skills back into their routines will increase their score potential in our future meets.”
Wittl (8.575) edged Pan (8.525) to lead Stillwater in the floor exercise and Ronsberg was next with a score of 8.2.
“Sidnee’s new routine is energetic and fun, and she’ll continue to polish the choreography through the season,” Swenson said. “Sami had a fall in her last tumbling pass, and we also kept one of her bonus skills out of the routine. Lillyan followed with a beautiful and graceful routine. Both of the judges commented to me after the meet about how exceptional her execution and presentation was in her routine. She has a few areas where she can increase difficulty and make some adjustments, as she transitions her routine to satisfy our rules, which are different from the club rules.
“Kylie had a miss on one tumbling pass — a 0.5 deduction at least — however, she still was able to get a great score, despite the mistake.”
Stillwater will likely face a stiffer test when it travels to Park for a conference meet on Thursday. The Wolfpack placed fourth at state a year ago.
“Overall, we were happy with the meet, even though we had quite a few mistakes,” Swenson said. “There are a lot of things we can improve on in the next couple of weeks and into the season, and most of the gymnasts have areas where they will increase difficulty to increase their score potential.”
n Also on Thursday, the Stillwater JV team posted a 121.3-80.0 victory over the Bears. Top scorers for the Ponies included Alex Holmberg on floor (8.15) and beam (7.1), Maddie Steffl on bars (7.5) and Sidnee Ronsberg in the vault (8.4).
White Bear Lake 116.575
Vault (Stillwater 35.125) — 1. Lillyan Pan 8.925; 2. Alex Holmberg 8.9; 3. Kylie Wittl 8.8; Lauren Thole 8.5; Sami Matschi 8.25.
Uneven bars (Stillwater 30.6) — 1. Kylie Wittl 8.55; 3. Sidnee Ronsberg 7.65; Sami Matschi 7.55; Natalie Jantschek 6.85; Lillyan Pan 6.8.
Beam (Stillwater 31.8) — 1. Kylie Wittl 8.7; 2. Sami Matschi 8.1; 3. Lillyan Pan 7.65; Scottland Adkins 7.35; Natalie Jantschek 7.3.
Floor (Stillwater 33.1) — 1. Kylie Wittl 8.575; 2. Lillyan Pan 8.525; Sidnee Ronsberg 8.2; Scottland Adkins 7.8; Sami Matschi 7.65.
All-around — 1. Kylie Wittl (St) 34.625; 2. Lillyan Pan (St) 31.9; 3. Sami Matschi (St) 31.55.