For the past few years, the Cambridge-Isanti gymnastics team has carried a burden into the Class 2A Section 7 meet.
The Bluejackets had claimed the team section title in each of the past 11 years. And C-I had advanced to the state tournament in 20 of the past 23 seasons, as well as 30 times since 1982 – more than any other Class 2A school.
As a result, the expectation of another state team berth may have felt like an added weight on the team’s shoulders.
But this year Cambridge-Isanti’s best team score was well behind those of both Anoka and Forest Lake. That is why coach Wendy Rooney and her gymnasts entered this year’s meet, which was hosted by Forest Lake on Friday, March 19, with a different attitude.
“Usually when we enter the section tournament, there’s a lot of pressure on us to extend the streak,” Rooney said. “We knew we weren’t the top-ranked team coming into the meet, so not having the pressure of being No. 1 allowed us to relax and to have fun. Our goal was to have our best meet of the year.”
In that sense it was mission accomplished for the Bluejackets, who posted a team score of 143.850, a mark that was a full point higher than the team’s previous best. Unfortunately that score was not enough to advance the team to the state meet, as Forest Lake won with a 145.825 team score while Anoka was second with a 144.875 mark.
Cambridge-Isanti tied Forest Lake for the high team score on the uneven parallel bars with a 35.250 mark, and it placed second to Anoka on the balance beam with a 35.625 score.
In a pleasant surprise, sophomore Alison Barber led the Bluejackets with a fifth-place finish in the all-around with a 36.100 mark, while fellow sophomore Laci Lorinser was sixth at 36.025. Barber placed second the beam with a 9.375, the highest individual event finish for the Bluejackets in the meet.
“It was easily Alison’s best meet of the year,” Rooney said. “She competed with a new vault today, and she stuck both landings. It was the best beam routine she has had all season – she really stepped up.”
Junior Laci Leverty was third on the bars (9.200) while Lorinser was fourth (8.975) and Barber tied for sixth (8.800) in that event. Leverty also finished fourth in vault (9.475) and floor exercise (9.500).
While the team finish at section may not have been what Cambridge-Isanti had hoped for, the team’s high score, combined with a Mississippi 8 conference title, made for what Rooney judged to be another successful season.
“There were so many unknowns, it would have been easy for this team to be unfocused and not motivated,” said Rooney, who was voted Section 7 coach of the year. “But these girls really pushed themselves, and we made a lot of improvements in a short amount of time.”
The season is not over for the Bluejackets, as three individuals will compete in the state meet at Champlin Park High School on Saturday, March 27, in the morning session that begins at 11:30 a.m.
Leverty will compete in the vault, bars and floor exercise, while Lorinser will compete on the bars and Barber will compete on the beam.
“We will spend the week making the routines we have as strong and as consistent as we can,” Rooney said. “We’re excited that we get to compete with those routines one last time, and we’ll just try to have some fun.”
Esget, Bauer and Isackson-Rod advance to state
North Branch’s Paige Bauer and Dakota Esget will be joined by Livia Isackson-Rod of the Rush City Flamingos at the Class A state gymnastics meet, which will be hosted by Champlin Park on Friday, March 26.
Esget, an eighth grader, placed second in the all-around competition at the Class A Section 7 meet hosted by Big Lake. Esget’s 36.525 score in the all-around included a first-place effort on the bars (9.025) and a third on balance beam (9.075).
Meanwhile Bauer, a senior, won the vault with a 9.425 score. Isackson-Rod, a senior, will compete on two events in the state competition: She placed fourth on the bars (8.6) and tied for third on the floor (9.3).
All three will perform in the morning session, which begins at 11:30 a.m.
The Vikings finished third in the team competition with 135.425 points, while the Rush City Flamingos placed seventh with 127.600 points. Defending state champ Big Lake won the team title with a 144.400 mark.