Defending champion Northfield was performing up to its usual standards. No. 2-ranked Roseville was matching Northfield event for event.
The Class 2A Gymnastics State Meet was everything it was supposed to be, with the added element of suspense: No one knew who was leading.
Twenty minutes after competition ended, with the stands filled with fans and the air filled with anticipation, came the announcement: Roseville, by the slimmest of margins, 149.325 to 149.15.
An exuberant cheer, borne as much out of relief as appreciation, exploded before PA announcer Allie Cronk was finished speaking. Finally. A winner.
For Roseville, it was a return to the highest spot on the podium after finishing second to Northfield in each of the past two seasons. Before that, Roseville set state records while winning four Class 2A team championships in a row from 2006 through 2009.
"Every team has its own chemistry," said Roseville co-coach Julie Castellano. "This feeling is almost greater because of how hard these girls worked to get this far. The other teams had their skills in place. This team had to work to develop them."
Roseville's season had appeared in jeopardy in early January when one of its top gymnasts, Carly Wagner, broke her leg.
"We counted down the days until she would be able to return," Castellano said. "And then KQ [Katie Quigley] stepped up and did so well. We got clearance for Carly to come back last Friday. And she came in tonight and gave us two stellar performances. It lifted the whole team."
Quigley admitted to being more than a little nervous before the outcome was announced.
"I was just praying," Quigley said through her tears, mascara running down her face. "I'm still waiting to wake up. We've won meets before, but I've never felt anything like that."
Class A: One for Coach T
When Hailey Brinkman was a freshman gymnast at Melrose, she had one final talk with Glen Thieschafer, the longtime Melrose coach who was days away from dying of cancer.
"It was the last time I talked to him," Brinkman said. "He told me 'You're going to be a state champion, girl.'"
Four years later, Brinkman's words came true as Melrose cruised to the Class 1A team championship at the gymnastics state meet, ending Perham's eight-year hold on the title.
After stumbling on its first two vaults of the meet, the Dutchmen put together a performance worthy of a state champion. Their score of 147.5, more than two full points better than that of runner-up New Prague, was earned on the toughest events of the meet, the uneven bars and the balance beam.
"I was a little nervous at first, because we have some seventh-graders on this team who are like 'lah-de-dah' and then we fell on our first two vaults," said Melrose coach Katie Masog. "But when we went five-for-five on the beam and we also had a great score on the bars, I felt pretty confident."
Masog, then known as Katie Niehaus, was a state champion All-Around performer at Melrose under Thieschafer in 2001. She recalled that he had predicted this championship when she replaced him as head coach four years ago.
"He just knew even then that this would be our year," said Masog. "Hailey was a ninth-grader then and we had a bunch of seventh-graders in our kiddie program. He could always tell what was going to happen."
Brinkman, the oldest of three Brinkman sisters on the roster and the team's only senior, put her former coach first during her post-meet interview.
"This one," Brinkman said, "was for Coach T."