The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Soaring to Nationals

    University students worked toward helping out the community Saturday in an effort called Tidy Up the Town, which consisted of about 40 students from different campus organizations helping out the area residents. Students who participated in the event assisted citizens of the Eau Claire community with the raking of leaves and other fall clean-up procedures, said LeeAnn Haupt, consultant for Involvement Activities and Programs.

    Gymnastics coach Jean De Lisle said as the team struggled to reach their full potential midway through the season, she decided to switch the team’s focus to something very simple: just have fun.

    Her decision paid off on Saturday when the Blugolds captured third place at the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships, UW-Eau Claire’s best finish since taking second place in 2006.

    De Lisle said she felt the new mentality was a big factor in the team’s success.

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    “We just kind of changed our focus and really went back to the basis of why we do this, and that’s to have a good time,” she said. “I think the rest takes care of itself.”

    Eau Claire also qualified for Nationals with a top-3 finish at the meet, which served as the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association West Regional.

    The Blugolds finished with a team score of 183.025, surpassing the 183-point mark for the second consecutive meet, the only times this season they exceeded that total.

    UW-Whitewater placed second with a team score of 185.5, while UW-La Crosse finished in first with 187.7 points. It was the Eagles’ 16th WIAC title in the last 19 years.

    Eau Claire also served as the hosts of the meet on Saturday, which took place in McPhee Center. Junior CeCe Solem said the familiarity with the venue made the team more comfortable during the competition.

    “We knew what it was going to look like,” she said. “We had practiced there before. I think that helped us go out there and have fun and do our best.”

    The Blugolds reached their highest score of the season on the balance beam with a team total of 46.6 points. Solem and sophomore Olivia Aschenbrenner were the top finishers on the team with their scores of 9.55, tying them for second place overall.

    Solem said it felt great to be able to provide an important contribution at such a significant point in the season.

    “I just really wanted to stick my routine for my team,” she said. “I just tried to stay calm and perform my best.”

    The team got off to a slow start on the beam after the first two gymnasts fell during their routines. Both girls got back up and still finished strong, which seemed to rally the team together, De Lisle said.

    It showed in the team’s scores as each of the next four gymnasts ended up placing in the top-10 with their routines.

    De Lisle said she thought the perseverance shown in the first two routines was ultimately what led to such success.

    “Everyone tried to put their best performances forward,” she said. “Numbers three, four, five, six went up there and they looked like the beam was — instead of being four inches wide — something that was two feet wide.”

    The Blugolds also saw strong individual performances from junior Danielle Schulzetenberg, who placed fourth in the floor exercise and fifth in the vault.

    “Floor went really well, it’s probably been one of my strongest events,” Schulzetenberg said. “When I finished the routine I knew it felt good. I just tried to go out there and do what I do everyday.”

    Schulzetenberg is one of two Blugolds who competed in the all-around competition, where she earned an eighth-place finish after tallying a season-high score of 36.750. Aschenbrenner also competed in all-around for Eau Claire and placed sixth overall with her score of 36.9.

    Next up for the Blugolds is the NCGA Nationals on March 23-24 in Brockport, NY.

    Solem said going in as underdogs, the team has nothing to lose and that is important for them not to set any sort of expectations.

    “Not everybody gets to make it to Nationals, so that’s an accomplishment in itself,” she said. “We just need to make sure we have fun.”

    After leading the team to a third place finish, De Lisle was named the WIAC Gymnastics coach of the year for the third time in her nine-year career.

    Even though the intensity of the competition will be much higher at Nationals, De Lisle said her emphasis for the team is still going to be on having fun, because that’s when they are at their best.

    “I’m going to keep the goal the exact same because it’s worked for us,” she said. “Go to Nationals … be proud of who we are representing, how we got there and just
    enjoy ourselves.”

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