WHITE BEAR LAKE — A few minor missteps on Saturday will keep the Stillwater gymnastics team from making that next big step to compete at state after placing second behind Mahtomedi at the Section 4AA Meet.
The Ponies have made five previous trips to state and appeared poised to qualify in successive seasons for the first time in school history, but the Zephyrs outscored Stillwater 140.1-139.925 to capture the section crown by just .175 points. Mahtomedi has advanced to state 24 times since 1979, but this will mark the school’s first appearance in the Class AA field.
Stillwater will be represented at state in the individual competition by senior Kylie Wittl and junior Lillyan Pan. Wittl finished third in the all-around to advance to state with a score of 36.425. She also qualified in the vault, uneven bars and beam while Pan qualified for state after placing fourth in the vault.
“It was a disappointing ending to the season for the team, but we had many successes throughout the year and we have a lot of talent and plans for next year,” Ponies coach Traci Swenson said. “As we go forward this week, we’re really excited for Kylie and for Lillyan.”
Stillwater outscored the Zephyrs by more than 1.5 points in the vault (36.85-35.375) and by a solid margin in the uneven bars (34.875-33.475), but Mahtomedi held slight edge in the floor (35.625-35.5) and a whopping 35.625-32.05 advantage in the beam to earn the narrow victory.
“Following the end of competition, it was very stressful as the judges finalized the scores,” Swenson said. “Everyone knew the team scores would be very close — the end result was painful. We had many opportunities throughout the meet to hold onto more than two-tenths and Mahtomedi didn’t give anything away.”
Even without their best line-up competing, the Ponies edged Mahtomedi 139.25-138.5 while winning the Eagan Invitational on Jan. 26. The teams both knew it was going to be close going into their final events, with the Zephyrs finishing up in the floor exercise and Stillwater on the uneven bars.
“We knew going into the last rotation that the meet was very close,” Swenson said. “We figured we had about a .5-.6 lead over Mahtomedi. We were finishing the meet on bars and they were on floor, which is usually a higher scoring event. We watched Mahtomedi compete on floor and noted their scores. We knew that we had the potential to score on bars high enough, but also that we had to be as perfect as we could be.”
Wittl finished second with a score of 9.25 in the bars.
“Kylie opened really well with a great handstand to her bonus-level release move,” Swenson said. “She ahd a small balance adjustment on her transition to the high bar, but then finished with the best dismount of the season.”
Natalie Jantschek finished fifth in the event with a score of 8.7 to narrowly miss joining Wittl and Pan at state. Sidnee Ronsberg (8.475) and Pan (8.45) followed in sixth and seventh to complete the scoring.
“Natalie delivered her best routine of the season and she nearly earned a state meet ticket,” Swenson said. “Lillyan’s routine was nearly perfect and Sidnee had a great opening of her routine, but had an unfortunate hit on the floor at the end of her release move. The judges deliberated over her score, awarding her a score of 8.675, but after the meet they conferred again and reconsidered the difficulty of one of her skills, lowering her score.”
In a close battle, that two-tenths was a big factor in the eventual outcome of the meet.
The Ponies overcame a rough showing in the beam, which was their first event of the day. Stillwater’s score of 32.05 was nearly three points less than its next lowest team score in the bars (34.875). Wittl led the Ponies with a fourth-place finish in the event with a score of 8.5, but the Zephyrs occupied each of the top three spots with Kalli Anderson (9.35), Morgan Long (8.95) and Rebecca Westafer (8.825).
Scottland Adkins was next for the Ponies in seventh place with a score of 8.4 while Pan (8.025) and Sami Matschi (7.775) completed the scoring.
“Kylie had a fall with a missed connection, but she was very clean on the rest of her routine, qualifying for state,” Swenson said. “It’s tough to start off with missed routines, but the girls were still excited and confident going into our next rotation.”
Wittl also led the Ponies in the floor exercise with a score of 9.2, good enough for sixth in the individual standings. Matschi (8.875) and Ronsberg (8.725) followed in ninth and 12th while Pan followed in 13th with a score of 8.7. Pan, who continues to battle an ankle injury, took a fall in her routine and Wittl also took a .1 deduction for stepping out of bounds on her second pass.
“Sidnee had a very clean routine and Sami had one of her best floor routines fo the season,” Swenson said. “It has been a joy to work with Sami for the past few years so I wsa veyr happy to see her have such a lovely floor routine today.”
The highlight for Stillwater came in the vault while posting three of the top five scores and four of the top nine. Wittl won the event with a score of 9.475 and Pan followed in fourth at 9.225, one spot in front of Ronsberg (9.2). Alex Holmberg also supplied an 8.95 for the Ponies.
“Sidnee had a huge vault on her first, with just one step on the landing,” Swenson said. “I asked her to try to stick her second vault, which she did, but her chest was down so it didn’t increase her score. Alex had her highest vault off the table so far this season, but was not able to hold the landing and had a fall.
“Lillyan had her best vault of the season, with a new person best score and a trip to the state meet. Kylie finished the group with a huge pike tsuk for her first vault and a great landing, with only one step. Her first vault score was enough for her to win the event. She has been working all season on a more difficult layout vault, which she attempted on her second vault. She hit the layout position, but was not able to hold onto the landing. It was a great step for her to take, though, with a solid first vault, to give her the experience going into next week.”
The state team competition is slated for Friday at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis. Defending state champion Roseville and Park from the Suburban East Conference are among those in the eight-team field. The individual competition is slated for Saturday starting at 6 p.m.
1. Mahtomedi 140.1; 2. Stillwater 139.925; 3. Cretin-Derham Hall 136.6; 4. White Bear Lake 131.525; 5. St. Paul Highland Park 128.65; 6. North St. Paul 121.675; 7. Tartan 121.3; 8. St. Paul Central 116.05.
Top four advance to state
Vault (Stillwater 36.85) — 1. Kylie Wittl (St) 9.475; 2. Diana Albrecht (Tar) 9.425; 3. Becca Wilcox (C-DH) 9.375; 4. Lillyan Pan (St) 9.225; 5. Sidnee Ronsberg (St) 9.2; 9. Alex Holmberg (St) 8.95; 17. Maddie Steffl (St) 8.6.
Uneven bars (Stillwater 34.875) — 1. Becca Wilcox (C-DH) 9.475; 2. Kylie Wittl (St) 9.25; 3. Jessica Greiner (C-DH) 9.025; 4. Kalli Anderson (Mah) 8.95; 5. Natalie Jantschek (St) 8.7; 6. Sidnee Ronsberg (St) 8.475; 7. Lillyan Pan (St) 8.45; 10. Sami Matschi (St) 8.2.
Beam (Stillwater 32.05) — 1. Kalli Anderson (Mah) 9.35; 2. Morgan Long (Mah) 8.95; 3. Rebecca Westafer (Mah) 8.825; 4. Kylie Wittl (St) 8.5; 7. Scottland Adkins (St) 8.4; 14. Lillyan Pan (St) 8.025; 17. Sami Matschi (St) 7.775; 25. Natalie Jantschek (St) 7.275.
Floor (Stillwater 35.5) — 1. Becca Wilcox (C-DH) 9.5; 2. Jessica Greiner (C-DH) 9.375; 3. Kalli Anderson (Mah) 9.275; 4. Madisyn Hammick (SPHP) 9.275; 6. Kylie Wittl (St) 9.2; 9. Sami Matschi (St) 8.875; 12. Sidnee Ronsberg (St) 8.725; 13. Lillyan Pan (St) 8.7; 17. Annie Seiler (St) 8.55.
All-around — 1. Kalli Anderson (Mah) 36.75; 2. Becca Wilcox (C-DH) 36.55; 3. Kylie Wittl (St) 36.425; 4. Jessica Greiner (C-DH) 35.8; 5. Lillyan Pan (St) 34.4.