There was a little more drama than usual at the Class 2A gymnastics team championships Friday. For one of the few times in recent history, there was legitimate uncertainty in the result.
No. 1-ranked Roseville, the three-time defending champions, faced a serious challenge from St. Cloud Tech. Lakeville North and East Ridge each entertained championship hopes. And Champlin Park lurked in the vicinity, quietly having a terrific meet.
In the end, however, the difference between winning and losing was fending off stress in the most pressure-packed of moments, which just happens to be one of the things Roseville does best.
Clinging to a slight lead going into their final event — big, bad balance beam, gymnastics’ notorious crusher of dreams — the Raiders showed why they’ve been the gold standard for gymnastics excellence for the past decade. They put up four excellent beam routines in a row, pulling away to win the Class 2A team championship for the fourth year in a row with a score of 150.05. St. Cloud Tech, which had followed Roseville in every rotation, could not match the Raiders on the beam and finished second with a 148.075.
“We don’t pay attention to what other teams do, we don’t focus on what we didn’t do and we never talk about winning,” said co-coach Mark Curley. “It’s all about looking ahead and doing what we do best.”
In the Section 4, 2A meet last Saturday, Roseville struggled, winning the meet with an uncharacteristically low score. They still won, but the subpar performance proved to be strong motivation.
“That [meet] wasn’t our best,” said senior captain I’sis Muller. “We knew what we could do.”
On the balance beam, Roseville posted four scores above 9.0, including a 9.525 by Muller and a 9.55 by sophomore Jessica Strecker. Pressure? What pressure?
“We all talked about what we had to do before the event,” said senior Kaylee Strecker, whose exuberant leaps after completing her beam routine, which scored 9.225, were among the best jumps in the entire meet. “It’s just awesome to be able to do this again.”
Roseville put on its best show of the season despite the tragic death of 3-year-old Taylor Grace Nguyen of leukemia on Feb. 11. The memory of Taylor Grace, who had become an honorary team member, made the night just a little more special.
“Every one of these [championships] is special because each team and each girl is different,” Curley said. “But what these girls did with such heavy hearts makes this one just a little bit more special.”