Rhinelander’s Lilli Bishop performs her floor exercise routine during the Great Northern Conference gymnastics meet in Park Falls Saturday, Feb. 22. Bishop finished fifth in the individual all-around with a career-high score of 30.5 points. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
2/25/2020 7:31:00 AM Hodag gymnasts finish second at GNC meet
The Rhinelander High School gymnastics team knew its fate was pretty much sealed, in terms of a Great Northern Conference championship, entering Saturday's GNC meet in Park Falls.
With Medford performing at a whole other level, the Hodags were left competing against themselves and for second in the GNC Small division. Rhinelander did just that on Saturday with a score of 114.85 at Chequamegon High School.
Medford ran away with the competition, posting a 130.575 to win the Small division title. It was the highest score ever recorded by a Small division team at the conference meet.
"We didn't quite hit our goal for today. Our goal was really to try to get a team personal best," Rhinelander coach Heather Sturtevant said, referencing the team's season best of 115.075 set earlier this month in a dual meet loss to Medford. "We came close, what our third-best score of the season? I'm still very proud of that. We knew we weren't going to catch Medford, so we were just hoping (depending on) how our girls did, could anybody slide onto the podium."
The top five in each event made the podium and junior Lilli Bishop was able to get there twice for Rhinelander. Career-high marks on balance beam (7.9) and in the individual all-around (30.5) gave her fifth-place finishes in both events.
Only the top three in each event earned all-conference honors, which Medford dominated. Chequamegon's Kristina Peterson was the only one to break up Medford's monopoly of the all-conference spots as she finished second on the vault.
Bishop had the high score for Rhinelander in all four events on Saturday. She added a seventh-place finish on floor exercise (7.95), was eighth on uneven bars (6.85) and 11th on the vault (7.8).
On beam, freshman Payton Rudawski and sophomore Abby Belbot finished right behind Bishop in sixth and seventh. Rudawski earned a 7.7 while Belbot scored 7.6.
"Payton and Abby, as well as Lilli, had no-fall routines (on beam)," Sturtevant noted. "All three had personal bests and they placed fifth, sixth and seventh. Really,, those three just rocked beam today. We had a team high. That's our highest score of the season on beam by almost a point. That was huge."
Junior Bridget Koser cracked the top 10 twice, taking eighth on floor exercise (7.8) and 10th on uneven bars (6.8). Autumn Shafer added a ninth-place finish on floor (7.65).
"Bars, Lilli and Bridget were really hoping for a 7. They had really nice, clean routines, got close. That was also a team high score on bars," Sturtevant said. "Our floor scores were a little lower than normal. We weren't quite as clean on some of our jump series in that. The girls know if they can get that solid, those will go up."
The conference meet scores mirrored the Small Division standings through the dual meet portion of the schedule. Rhinelander was 7.55 points clear of third-place Mosinee (107.3). Chequamegon came in fourth (105.35) and Lakeland was a distant fifth (65.75).
The Hodags will return to action Friday in a WIAA Division 2 sectional in Antigo. The top two teams qualify for state, as do the top five individuals and ties in each event. GNC Large contenders Antigo and Ashland will join the GNC Small for the sectional meet and figure to give Medford a run for the team title. All three teams will have several gymnasts in contention for individual state spots and Washburn's Lakyn Sonday figures to be in the mix for the all-around title as well.
That leaves Rhinelander as a longshot to qualify for state, which will allow the team to take some of the pressure off and allow it to focus on its own goals, Sturtevant said.
"We're just going for the highest score we can and really trying to beat that 115.075. Can we (score) real solid mid 115s or maybe even hit a 116? I know the girls are very capable of it," she said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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