by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
In their last meet together before becoming section rivals, the Elk River-Rogers-Zimmerman gymnasts and their two senior co-captains turned in their best performance of the season Thursday evening.
The Elks’ 141.95 to 115.825 win over the Coon Rapids Cardinals, at home, was their 33rd in a row over four seasons, and gave them an 8-0 finish in the Northwest Suburban Conference and fourth straight title.
Leah Perrault was all-around leader with 36.5 and Alana Embury was next with 35.0, both season bests by the squad’s only seniors, as the Elks scored over 140 for the first time this season.
Embury won vault (9.2) and floor (9.2), Perreault took bars (9.25) and freshman Alyssa Walton won beam (9.2).
“We had a great meet to cap off the season,” said coach Jenn Bartlett, “and we still had some JV kids score better than varsity, so we know anything can happen. That’s the one good thing about this split we have to do.”
The JV scored 129.9 in this meet, showing that the roster has the depth to split up and still compete well. The JV girls get to compete on varsity for sectionals because the Elk River girls and Rogers girls will compete separately in sectionals as they have the past four years.
The big difference this year is that they will be the same section, 8AA at St. Cloud Apollo on Saturday, Feb. 18. Another difference is that the Zimmerman girls will not be with Elk River this year. The small Thunder group will go to Section 7A at Big Lake, due to an edict from the MSHSL.
“We’re in the same section as Rogers this year, and that’s terrible!” said Embury, who’ll lead the Elk River squad while Perreault will head up the Rogers squad. “We’ve always been able to go to each other’s sectional and root for them in the past. Now we’ll compete against them.”
The team has split twice this year, with the Elk River group outpointing Rogers in the Faribault Invitational, and the Rogers group having the upper hand at the Breck Invitational.
“It will be hard, but I think we’ve gotten ready for it better this year by competing separately twice already,” said Embury.
Bartlett was elated to see Perreault (battling a sore back and ankle sprain) and Embury sparkle in their final home meet. They were feted by their younger teammates in a Senior Night ceremony after the match.
“Leah just owned the meet tonight,” said the coach. “She stuck beam and bars and flipped her vauylt. She looked fantastic. She’s ready for sectionals. Alana was fantastic especially on floor.”
The willowy and highly-flexible Embury closes floor with a back flip tuck where she lands on her belly, not her feet, with just a light thud, and bounces back up for her final pose.
Sophomore Katie Fleck placed third on beam and floor, and fourth on bars, for the Elks. Junior Jessica Sadlowsky was third in vault and fourth on floor.
Embury said the team was thrilled to go 8-0 in conference again.
“We lost a lot of good people from last year and we knew it was going to be hard for us,” said Embury. “But everyone stepped up, and it turned out pretty good. I am so proud of this team.”
Elk River-Rogers-Zimmerman 141.45, Coon Rapids 115.825
All-around – (1) Leah Perrault, Elks, 36.5 (2) Alana Embury, Elks, 35.0 (3) Shana Sipe, CR, 32.1
Vault – (1) Embury 9.2 (2) Perreault 9.075 (3) Jessica Sadlowsky, Elks, 8.55 (4) Kendra Hambleton, Elks, 8.5
Uneven bars – (1) Perreault 9.25 (2) Alyssa Walton, Elks, 8.7 (3) Krista Kovar, Elks, 8.45 (4) Katie Fleck, Elks, 8.4
Balance beam – (1) Walton 9.2 (2) Perreault 9.1 (3) Fleck 8.65 (4) Embury 8.5
Floor exercise – (1) Embury 9.2 (2) Perreault 9.075 (3) Fleck 8.85 (4) Sadlowsky 8.75