The Rhinelander High School gymnastics team overcame a shaky start on Saturday and finished seventh in the eight-team Charlie Martin Invitational at Wisconsin Rapids High School.
A strong day on the floor exercise helped the Hodags recover after they posted lower marks on uneven bars and balance beam to start the day, according to coach Heather Sturtevant.
"Talk about the girls rallying, that was almost the same (score) as Thursday, but we lost three points on beam on the scores we had to take," she said. "We could have been at 110 today ... Bars wasn't great. Beam, I thought we had the two highlights, but we were kind of down. We had a team talk and we're like, 'Come on, we can do this.' They came back and floor was amazing."
Junior Lilli Bishop had the highlight of the day for Rhinelander, placing ninth overall on the floor exercise with a career-best score of 8.45 points. She finished 13th in the all-around for the Hodags with a score of 29.175.
"These were big teams we were against and she finished ninth, in the top 10, of 40 girls," Sturtevant noted. "That is huge. We had a talk and were just like, 'Go out and have fun. Don't be upset about the last two events. You like floor. You're good at floor. Just go and show your routine.' It showed. She just nailed everything and was rewarded for it. It was a beautiful routine."
Floor featured Rhinelander's only scores in the 8s on Saturday with Bishop and fellow junior Bridget Koser (21st, 8.1). Freshman Payton Rudawski added a personal best with a 7.55.
"Bridget, with the 8.1, her personal best is an 8.2 and she's still not 100 percent (recovering from illness)," Sturtevant said. "They really, really just rallied on that. They were super supportive of each other and really had a good time on floor."
Despite having six falls among the four scores the Hodags counted on balance beam, the team still had two scores in the 7s. Koser had a no-fall routines she was the team's best finisher in the event (25th, 7.2), Rudawski had one fall and finished 26th (7.1). Sturtevant said balance beam was a struggle across the board on Saturday. Only six gymnasts reached the eight-point range in the event.
"Today the beam ate people. Ashland had way lower scores, big dog teams were falling off beam. I'm not sure what it was today," she said.
Rudawski and Bishop tied for Rhinelander's best score on the vault (28th, 7.75), Bishop had the team's best score on uneven bars (27th, 6.675). Sophomore Abby Belbot also competed in the all-around for Rhinelander, finishing 17th (23.7).
Marshfield scored 137.55 points to win the meet by more than eight points over runner-up Mukwonago. Marshfield's Gracie Holland won all four events and the individual all-around (37.325).
The Hodags found out Friday that junior Autumn Shafer will miss some time due to an elbow injury she sustained in this past Thursday's dual meet win over Mosinee.
Shafer, who injured her elbow after falling off the uneven bars, is expected to miss 4-6 weeks according to Sturtevant.
She had been one of Rhinelander's all-around performers this year, along with Bishop, and has been consistently one of the Hodags' top scorers on vault.
While Sturtevant said Shafer will be missed during her recovery, she said the injury doesn't change the team's goals for the season.
"We're trying to do improvements of our skills, improvements of our scores," she said. "Nobody's going for some huge advanced high superior new skill, but a few things that we did at the end of last year that have been a little shaky we having been doing we're hoping to get back into routines, especially bars."
Shafer's injury does leave Rhinelander thin, especially on uneven bars and floor exercise where the team had only four competitors on Saturday, but Sturtevant said she expects to have a little more depth in the lineup with a couple of other gymnasts looking to return to action by the Jan. 23 dual against Lakeland.
Rhinelander hosts Wisconsin Rapids in a GNC crossover meet this evening. Rapids finished fifth in Saturday's invite with a score of 124.875.
The meet is scheduled to get underway at 5:30 p.m. at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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