by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Rogers Royals half of the Elk gymnastics co-op earned its second straight trip to the state meet Wednesday evening by repeating as Section 5AA champions.
Led by Sabrina Hoover and Leah Perrault, who finished 1-2 all-around, and Alyssa Walton in fifth place, the Royals rolled up 142.6 points to win the nine-team event, with Maple Grove next at 138.525, at Park Center.
“We had a great meet,” said coach Jenn Bartlett. “Our first event, bars, did not go as well as we hoped, but Courtney Bursch gave us a good start on beam, and we went 4-for-5 on beam, and it built from there.”
Hoover, a senior who’ll try for her third state all-around crown next week, scored a season-best 38.225 to repeat as all-around champion. She also repeated as champ on uneven bars (9.75), floor exercise (9.65) and vault (9.575).
“I brought it all together tonight. I peaked,” said Hoover. “I did the same things I’ve done all year, just cleaner … Bars was (my highlight). I was real tight on my shoots.”
Perrault, a junior, won balance beam with 9.35 and scored 36.55 all-around, also a season high, for second place. Hoover, who won beam last year, had one wobble that dropped her to third this time with 9.25.
Eighth-grader Walton placed fifth all-around with 35.o5, another season-best and personal best, just missing advancement to state individual as the top four go on. She was fifth on bars (8.45) and floor (9.35) and seventh on beam (8.75).
While Hoover, Perrault and Walton are varsity luminaries all year on the Elk River-Rogers-Zimmeman squad that won the Northwest Suburban championship, the section meet is the time to shine for several other girls who usually have JV status on the complete team.
“I could not be happier,” said Bartlett, “with what Kassi Hall and Corryn Stelflug and Kendra Hambleton and Courtney Bursch did. They stepped up for us.”
Rogers will compete in state team on Friday at 6 p.m. at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavillion. Hoover and Perrault will compete individually on Saturday evening.
The Elk River-Zimmerman portion of the team will host Section 7AA on Friday beginning 5 p.m. The Elks are not expected to contend for team title but hope to get one or two individuals through to state.
The Royals’ teammates from Elk River were on hand wearing Rogers colors to cheer them on.
Perrault, who went to state just on beam last year, will compete in all events this time. She had a bad start at sectionals as she missed a new move she added for bars, but her beam, floor and vault went very well. She threw a pike yurchenko on vault for the first time this year and stuck it.
“We all had high energy tonight,” said Perrault. “We picked ourselves up after bars, and we really didn’t do too bad on bars.”
Hoover was very pleased that her teammates who’ve been JV all year helped boost the Royals to another state trip, making up for the loss of Brooke Bistodeau, a state individual qualifier last year.
“We lost Brooke, but everybody picked it up, and we had more depth than we’ve ever had,” said Hoover, who’s done this with Rogers for three years.
One reason for that is Walton, who came over from the Aerials club this year.
“It looked like a lot of fun, and it was something new to try,” said Walton about going to the school team. She said floor was her highlight at sectional, where she scores big for the front handspring and front full twist on her first pass.
Said Bartlett: “For a little eighth-grader who was gun-shy and didn’t know what high school was all about, Alyssa has done really well. There was a lot of pressure on her as the season went on and her scores got higher, and she handled the pressure really well.”
Other personal-bests were accomplished by Steflug on floor (8.725), Bursch on beam (8.60) and Hambleton on vault (8.275).
This marks Rogers’ four state trip this school year following football (state runner-up), girls soccer (champs) and dance team.
Bartlett’s staff includes Joleen Winkelman, Shannon Hoover, Randy Sandeno and Jamie Ricci.
Team scoring — (1) Rogers 142.6 (2) Maple Grove 138.525 (3) Centennial 137.0 (4) Mounds View 130.6 (5) Champlin Park 125.1 (6) Osseo 124.425 (7) Irondale 122.175 (8) Park Center 118.8 (9) Spring Lake Park 88.875
All-around leaders — (1) Sabrina Hoover, Rog, 38.225 (2) Leah Perrault, Rog, 36.55 (3) Kayln Botzet, MG, 35.225 (4) Anna House, MV, 35.1 (5) Alyssa Walton, Rog, 35.05
Elk scores — Uneven bars: (1) Hoover 9.7 (3) Perrault 8.5 (5) Walton 8.45 (23) Bursch 6.8 (28) Kassie Hall 6.6 … Balance beam: (1) Perrault 9.35 (3) Hoover 9.25 (7) Walton 8.75 (10) Bursch 9.60 (21) Corryn Stelflug 7.8 … Floor exercise: (1) Hoover 9.65 (5) Perrault and Walton, each 9.35 (12) Stelflug 8.725 (23) Kendra Hambleton 8.275 … Vault: (1) Hoover 9.575 (2) Perrault 9.35 (13) Courtney Bursch 8.65 (19) Walton 8.5 (26) Hambleton