by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk River-Rogers-Zimmerman gymnasts needed their best effort of the season to hold off Centennial and capture another conference championship Thursday evening.
Their best was just what the Elks got, pulling out a 139.9 to 137.85 victory at Circle Pines – the site of their last dual-meet loss back in December of 2008.
“Our girls came in here knowing they had to earn it tonight,” said coach Jenn Bartlett, “and I’m just ecstatic for them. Centennial got their best score, too, so it was a great night for everyone.”
The Elks logged their 32nd straight dual meet win, and seventh this year, and with it their fourth straight championship. They have one NWSC dual left, against Coon Rapids at home next Thursday. It was the first loss for Centennial.
“Luckily, we had everybody really step up tonight,” said senior co-captain Alana Embury. “We did what we were supposed to be doing before. We’re finally where we should be.”
The Elks always have that win streak in the backs of their minds and knew all season who the biggest threat was.
“At the beginning of the year, we were scoring lower than Centennial,” noted Embury. “It’s so good to be able to beat them, and not just neck and neck. Two points is a lot in gymnastics.”
Erin Hanson was all-around leader in the meet for Centennial with 35.5 and won vault with 9.425. ERZ’s Alyssa Walton with 35.025 and Leah Perrault with 35.0 were second and third. Walton won uneven bars and floor exercise, and Perrault won balance beam.
Walton, a freshman, won bars with 8.9, highlighted by a full twist dismount, and floor with 9.35, highlighted by a double full twist and a sequence of two back handsprings into a full twist. She did floor on a banged-up ankle that had to be taped after she missed her dismount on beam.
“We build off each other and we lift each other up,” said Walton about the Elks score that was more than two points above their previous best.
It helped a lot that almost everyone was competing again. Perrault, their top senior veteran who usually leads them in all-around scoring, had missed two meets with back ailment on top of an ankle that’s always tender. Embury and Walton had missed the previous meet due to illness.
The Elks nailed down the victory with a rousing performance in floor, their final event. Embury turned in a career-best 9.125 with snappy execution of a new tumbling sequence — front handspring, front layout, front layout — on her first pass. Walton followed with her 9.375 and Perrault anchored with a 9.975 for fifth place. The Elks got 36.275 points, the best of their four events.
The Elk JV also peaked with a 132.25 that would win most varsity duals in the NWSC led by Courtney Bursch with 33.5, Corryn Stelflug 32.8 and Stephanie DeLong 31.2.
The Elks have two meets left before breaking into three teams — Rogers, Elk River, and Zimmerman/Spectrum — for sectionals. After the Coon Rapids dual on Thursday they’ve got an invitational at Breck on Feb. 4.
ERZ 139.90, Centennial 137.85
All-around — (1) Erin Hanson, Cen, 35.35 (2) Alyssa Walton, ERZ, 35.025 (3) Leah Perrault, ERZ, 35.0 (4) Thea Henderson, Cen, 34.375 (5) Jennifer Dobias, Cen, 34.20
Vault – (1) Hanson 9.425 (2) Alana Embury, ERZ, 9.025 (3) Dobias 8.925 (4) Nicole Stott, Cen, 8.675 (5) Henderson 8.65 (6) Kaylin Peterson, Cen, 8.6 (7) Kendra Hamleton, ERZ, 8.55 (8) Jessica Sadlowski, ERZ, 8.5 (9) Walton 8.25 (10) Perrault 8.175
Uneven bars – (1) Walton 8.9 (2) Hanson 8.8 (3) Krista Kovar, ERZ, 8.75 (4) Embury 8.725 (5) Perrault 8.55 (6) Henderson 8.35 (6) Katie Fleck, ERZ, 8.325 (8) Dobias 7.9 (9) Stott 7.7 (10) Peterson 7.4
Balance beam – (1) Perrault 9.2 (2) Dobias 8.675 (3) Henderson 8.575 (4) Walton 8.5 (5) Kovar 8.4 (6) Peterson 8.3 (6) Fleck 8.265 (8) Lindsey Koosman 8.15 (9) Hanson 8.025 (10) Stott 7.75
Floor exercise – (1) Walton 9.375 (2) Stott 9.25 (3) Embury 9.125 (4) Hanson 9.10 (5) Perrault 9.075 (6) Henderson 8.8 (7) Dobias 8.7 and Fleck 8.7 (9) Kovar 8.575 (10) Peterson 8.5