by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Seeking her third consecutive state all-around gymnastics title, Sabrina Hoover summed up the stakes this way:
“That’s what I put on Facebook this morning — that I would either make history, or be history,” she grinned.
The Rogers senior made some history, picking up that hat trick, albeit by the slimmest of margins in a very wide-open race, Saturday evening at the U of M’s Sports Pavilion.
Capped by a brilliant, clutch performance on balance beam, as the final performer of meet with literally all eyes on her, Hoover scored 38.425 points to win an excruciatingly close race. No less than eight girls topped the 38 marker.
The 5-foot-2, 115-pound athlete won beam with 9.750 while scoring 9.650 on vault, 9.525 on uneven bars and 9.500 on floor.
“When they called my name, I had no idea!” she said. “I was hoping top three.”
She didn’t make the podium in the other three events — she was seventh on vault and ninth in bars and floor — but her consistency put her over the top by a razor-thin margin. Runner-up Kasondra Tulooch of Park-Cottage Grove had 38.375 and bronze-medalist Rachel Deephouse, also of Park, had 38.300.
The scorers needed an extra half-hour to sort out the top eight with a series of tie-breakers.
Sabrina’s mom Shannon, an assistant coach, said she didn’t think there would be three-peat when she watched the meet.
“I saw some fantastic gymnastics — huge vaults, beautiful bar swings, and beautiful beam routines and floor routines. A lot of tough competition from a lot of new girls we have never seen before,” said Shannon. “I would have been proud of her anyway. All I wanted was for her to have a good meet and go 4-for-4 (hitting all the routines) in her last high school meet and be happy.”
Coach Jenn Barlett continues to be amazed at Hoover’s focus.
“She was the very last competitor, the whole place watching her, and she was solid,” said Bartlett. “Oh, she is one of the fiercest mental competitors I have ever met. Obviously she felt the pressure to repeat, and knew everybody would be watching, and didn’t wanna make mistakes. She really had a great meet, and I am very proud of her.”
Hoover was Class A all-around champ in 10th grade, and has won Class AA the last two years.
She is the fourth girl to win two AA crowns, and the only girl to win in both A and AA. In Class A, there’s been one four-time winner (Mindy Myhre of Mahtomedi) and four two-time winners in all-around.
She said she was “more nervous this time” than the previous two, mainly because of the glut of competition.
Bartlett said the deep field stemmed from more girls leaving clubs due to the economy or due to the wear and tear of spending 20 to 40 hours a week in clubs. At any rate, the field was fierce, and once again Hoover prevailed.
“It’s a lot to live up to and I can’t believe I did,” said Hoover. “I just always try to think — train like you’re in second place but compete like you’re in first place.”
In team competition Friday, when Rogers placed seventh, Hoover had a fall on the beam, just her second all year.
“I changed my jump tonight, the one that I fell on, to a simpler one, because I didn’t need the hard jump,” said Hoover. Otherwise she breezed through an aerial, a full turn, a switch leap, a split three-quarter, a single back handspring, a one-arm front handspring, a straddle jump, and a roundoff full-twist dismount.
And she knew she had nailed it.
“I was smiling even before I got off the beam,” said Hoover, who didn’t know if she’d won all-around but certainly knew she had stayed in the running.
Meaghan Howell of Northfield won bars with 9.800. Chloe Leuma of Stillwater Area won vault with 9.8375. Julia Stadman of North St. Paul won floor exercise with 9.7125.
Hoover’s teammate Leah Perrault, a junior placed 21st all-around with 36.4865. Alex Felt, Elk River senior, placed 30th with 33.9625.
Perrault scored 9.25 in vault, 8.725 on bars, 9.35 on beam and 9.175 on floor exercise. On beam, where she went just ahead of Hoover, those two being the last two performers of the whole meet, she just missed a podium appearance on beam (top six) by placing seventh.
“I think it went fairly well. I did good on beam and floor, and stuck my double back on bars, so that was good,” said Perrault, who is also a starting outfielder on the Rogers softball team.
Felt had a good start with 8.725 on bars, hitting all her moves and making a solid dismount. She had a good floor with 8.975 while falling twice in beam for 7.8 and falling on her vault landing to score 8.55.
“I had fun,” said Felt, adding she was definitely ready to quit gymnastics. “I am truly falling apart … Now I will no longer be in pain!”
“Alex may not have had a great day but I am so proud of her because she made it here,” said Bartlett. “Leah was battling an ankle injury and she did well. She was the second-to-last girl on the beam with everybody watching and she did fantastic.”