Kelsi Vomacka, Perham's wonderfully talented all-around gymnast, admitted that she wasn't covering new territory, but this time was different. This time, her words held more weight.
"I feel like I've said this last year and the year before," said Vomacka after she led the Yellowjackets to their state-record eighth straight team championship at the Class 1A gymnastics state meet on Friday at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.
"I've always said this feels awesome, and it's so great and things like that, but this is really the year. We've set a record and our names will always be connected with that. Everyone will know us for this."
Perham had shared the record with Mahtomedi, which won seven straight Class 1A championships from 1987 through 1993.
Because Perham has been the top team in Class 1A for the better part of the last decade, its most recent victory came as no surprise. It wasn't, however, the forgone conclusion that it had been in the past. Perham scored 146.025, an admirable mark but not quite up to previous levels. The Yellowjackets own the Class 1A state-meet record score of 150.4, set in 2005.
This year, Perham was top-heavy, with four accomplished gymnasts in seniors Vomacka, Mikaela Eickschen and Carly Peterson and junior Satera Montella. They were backed up by a slew of inexperienced seventh- and eighth-graders.
"This is our first time here without depth," coach Charlie Fleck said. "We haven't been able to get the consistency we've needed."
Consistency in this case being a relative term. While the Yellowjackets may not have a roster as loaded as in years past, they were still good enough to get past their nearest challenger, No. 2-ranked Becker. The Bulldogs had given Perham all it could handle at the Class 1A True Team meet in late January, losing by a little more than a point.
But the Bulldogs fell victim to the most cruel of gymnastics events, the balance beam. Leading off the meet on the 4-inch-wide strip, Becker suffered five falls and put themselves in a hole too deep to dig out of.Class 2A goes down to wire
This time, the drama was real.
Friday's Class 2A state gymnastics team championships didn't need the artificial tension that tournament directors create by keeping the champion secret until announced on the winner's podium. Northfield, Roseville and Park of Cottage Grove managed to create real suspense, matching each other routine for routine in what became one of the closest finishes in meet history.
In the end, the luck of the draw won for defending champion Northfield. Northfield trailed Roseville by a little more than point going into the final rotation. But Northfield finished the meet with the floor exercise, a tumbling and dancing event that is the favorite of fans and competitors alike. Roseville closed on the balance beam, a heartbreaker of a discipline that has ruined many championship hopes.
That difference was all the Northfield needed. With junior Sveta Mason pulling out a 9.7 in the final routine of the meet, Northfield squeaked past Roseville 150.4 to 150.1. And had both teams withered, Park poised itself to steal the championship when it posted a 149.825.
"Wasn't that great?" said Roseville coach Mark Curley. "That was what it is all about. Everybody performing their best on the biggest stage."
One thing working in Northfield's favor was its athletes' insistence on paying no attention to what opponents were doing. When not competing during the rotations, Northfield's gymnasts retire to a private spot to talk -- and giggle -- among themselves.
Northfield co-head coach Melissa Bernhard said her team's lack of worry was its biggest advantage.
"This is such a fun group," she said. "In between events, they're always talking and laughing. They are truly a team."