Rhinelander’s Elle Spiegelhoff performs her uneven bars routine during a Great Northern Conference triangular Feb. 7 at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium. The Hodags finished last season undefeated in conference play and finished third at WIAA sectionals. (Jeremy Mayo/River News)
11/30/2012 1:20:00 PM RHS gymnasts seek to win GNC Small again
The Rhinelander High School gymnastics team cleaned up in the Great Northern Conference Small Division last year, winning the conference title going away.
With several key performers from last year's team returning, the Hodags hope for similar success in 2012-13.
"We definitely want to win all of our conference meets," RHS gymnastics coach Jen Pooch said. "It shouldn't be out of our reach at all. It's something we want to do. Then, it's just improving from meet to meet on our team score. That's always a main goal."
The Hodags will be led by seniors Elle Spiegelhoff and Megan Thornton and junior Sara Krueger. Spiegelhoff has qualified for the WIAA state meet each of the last two seasons and was the all-around champion in the GNC Small last year. Thornton, despite dealing with a back injury, finished second on the balance beam and third on the uneven bars during last year's GNC meet. Krueger finished second on the floor exercise and fifth on beam.
"Those three are going to be really strong for us," Pooch said. "Sara for three events. She's doing vault again this year, has been working really hard on it and is doing really well. Megan's working back to all-around after her back injury and Elle had that leg injury last year, but its feeling great right now. We're just working on the skills we already have."
Sophomore Stephanie Allen also performed on varsity last season., She finished fourth on floor exercise and seventh on vault at the GNC meet.
New faces on varsity could include sophomore Alyssa Ellis and freshmen Maddie Fix, Nikki Ellis and Kenzi Meendering.
"Maddie Fix is pretty strong on balance beam," Pooch said. "She might step up and surprise in that area. Nikki Ellis is just a really quick learner. She's tight (with her skills). She's picked up a lot of things really fast. Her being able to do varsity bars will be huge for us. She should fit right in with the girls that are already there."
Pooch said the majority of the varsity spots have been determined, with Spiegelhoff and Thornton competing in all four events this year. The biggest lineup battles are on vault and beam.
"There are a few spots (up for grabs)," she said. "We've got a spot on vault still. We have two spots on beam, but floor and bars are pretty much set."
The Hodags will keep a close eye on a pair of teams in the GNC Large - Antigo and Ashland. They are typically the teams to beat when Rhinelander competes at sectionals. Once again, it appears the road to the WIAA state meet will go through the Oredockers and the Red Robins.
"It's always a challenge with Ashland and Antigo in our sectional," Pooch said of qualifying for state. "I don't think it's not attainable. We definitely could get there. We need to improve on the little things and make sure we are consistent on events like balance beam. We just can't afford any falls. Vault is going to help us this year because we've added some higher-value vaults. Bars is going to be a challenge. With the three, four solid girls we have on bars we really need to pick up some skills to compete with teams like Ashland and Antigo."
The Hodags begin their season today at the Chequamegon Invite in Park Falls and will host the annual Hodag "Snowflake" Invitational Dec. 8. Antigo and Ashland will be in the field for that event. Rhinelander's first GNC triangular will be Dec. 10 when the Hodags and Lakeland will travel to Medford.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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