Gymnasts miss national bid, remain upbeat about season

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On paper, the gymnastics team’s seventh place finish out of eight teams at the NCGA regional meet on Saturday may seem like a disappointment.

But on the mats it’s a different story, coach Lisa McIntyre said.

With a score of 174.25 at the Lund Center in St. Peter, Minn. the Blugolds were just 2.075 points behind conference foe UW-River Falls to vie for a spot at the NCGA National Championships.

In the last two weeks the Blugolds have been edged out by similar slim margins to the Falcons, at the WIAC meet two weeks ago and a dual meet at McPhee last week.

“All along we have been trying to do the same thing, and that’s to peak at the right time,” McIntyre said. “We had a fantastic meet.”

It was a little disappointing not qualifying for the national tournament, McIntyre said, but it doesn’t take away from the accomplishment of the team.

“I guess there is a little bit of disappointment,” McIntyre said. “It was obviously one of our goals. But as far as we were concerned it was not the focus of the meet.”

One of the things that helped the gymnastics team break the 170-point mark for the sixth time this season was the Blugolds’ season best total in the balance beam competition, a score of 43.825. That score was better than UW-La Crosse, the meet’s winner, a perennial top-tier team in the WIAC.

“I think that was one of the things I was most pleased about,” McIntyre said. “Not to single one team out, but to beat La Crosse in the balance beam is a wonderful feat to say the least.”

At the beginning of the season, McIntyre said the balance beam was one of the team’s worst events, but by taking the pressure off in practice, the team was able to make huge strides.

“(At the beginning of the season) we were taking six or eight falls and counting them,” she said. “Now we’re only counting two falls and that’s huge.”

Having junior Erin Henrich, who was the first Blugold to win a conference championship in 20 years when she took the beam title two weeks ago, working the beam for Eau Claire helped the Blugolds.

Eau Claire’s top all-arounders, freshmen Alison Eagles and Adria Walin and sophomore Kristina Reitzel, set a new school record for being the first Blugold gymnasts to surpass the 35-point total in the same meet. Eagles scored a 35.4, Walin a 35.525 and Reitzel, who set the school all-around record, a 35.95.

“I think that was the best meet of her life,” said McIntyre, who noted that Reitzel had no falls in any of her events. “To do that four times was quite impressive.”

But, as McIntyre notes after every successful meet, Friday’s performance was due to the teamwork and camaraderie the Blugolds have achieved this season.

“The regular season and the post-season have really showed how close this team is,” senior Sarah Aldridge said. “We’ve been able to get as close as friends. I think that pushes our gymnastics to be better.”

Aldridge was part of McIntyre’s first recruiting class at Eau Claire. She said she has witnessed the team evolve over the past four years, achieving more each season the Blugolds hit the mats.

“It was pretty exciting to see a whole team of high quality gymnasts (this year),” Aldridge said. “We have a wonderful coach guiding us. I think (the program) is really improving.”