MINNEAPOLIS -- For every state individual gymnastics tournament, there is an individual story.
For first-timer Gracia Elias of the Worthington Trojans, Saturday was about shaking off the butterflies and having fun. For Jackson County Central’s Abby Schneekloth, it was about shaking off illness and putting on a brave face.
Elias and Schneekloth gutted it out and were able to smile at the end of the 2017 Minnesota Class A individual gym competition at the Sports Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus. Elias, an eighth-grader, was joined in the tournament by two veteran teammates, Taylor Eggers and Maria Contreras. A second Husky, Brooklyn Schuett, also competed.
Elias, a slender and diminutive lass, had one event to compete in on Saturday -- the balance beam. Having also performed on the beam Friday in the team portion of the tournament, she wasn’t going in cold. Even so, the beam is a difficult contraption -- it can give even the veterans flutters in the stomach.
The young Trojan had one fall, and a little trouble on the landing. But it was a decent performance in-between, and good enough for an 8.075 score.
“I’m excited and happy,” she said later, although she admitted, “It wasn’t the best I could do.”
Nervous? Yes, but she fought away the nerves.
“I was just thinking to myself that I made it here, and just have fun,” she said.
The beam score placed Elias at the bottom of the scoring. None of her teammates won medals either, and neither did the JCC qualifiers. Coaches always say that’s not what gymnastics is all about. It’s about doing the best you can and smiling through the ups and downs -- it’s a reward for a grueling winter season of bumps, bruises and ankle sprains.
Schneekloth had a different problem on Saturday, however. At the Section 3A meet, the blonde, blue-eyed junior qualified for the all-around competition (as well as for bars, vault and beam), which meant she was eligible to perform in all four events. Unfortunately, she was suffering from a bad cold, causing her to vomit a couple of times before the meet began.
The question was whether to try to compete fully, not at all, or to compete partially.
She decided to compete only on the uneven parallel bars and balance beam events. And she hung tough. She scored an 8.425 on bars (25th place) and 8.950 on beam (15th place).
Not feeling strong enough to compete in all four events, she said, was “disappointing to me, because I was really proud of myself (for qualifying). It just decided not to do two of my events. I was proud of myself for pulling it off after throwing up.”
Schuett’s one event was the floor exercise, and she placed 20th with a score of 9.375.
Contreras competed Saturday on the bars event, where she turned in a score of 8.375, for 26th place.
Eggers qualified for state on vault, bars, floor exercise and all-around. She competed first with her Section 3A teammates on the floor, where she scored a 9.150 (28th). Next, she was credited with a 28th-place 9.00 on vault. Her floor score was 9.150 (again 28th). She scored a 7.800 on beam and her all-around score was a 33.575 (30th).
Although Eggers is only a sophomore, Friday and Saturday already marked her third year of competing at the state tournament -- which may partially explain why she expected more success.
“I didn’t have my best day, but I did the best I could. But I thought my teammates did amazing on their events,” she said, however, in true gymnastics spirit.
Eggers is one of those gymnasts who is hard to read during a meet. She can be trusted to have a ready smile at the conclusion of every competition, but while meets are still in play, she doesn’t smile often. Friday and Saturday was typical. After each one of her performances, her face stayed etched in competition-mode. Was she angry? Disappointed? Focused?
Focused, it turns out.
“I’ve been told that a lot (that I never smile). I’ve been trying to work on it, but it never works out,” she said after Saturday’s meet, grinning finally. “During my routine, I’m kind of zoned in and I don’t hear anything that’s going on. And after my routine, I’m just kind of going over it.”
Smiling easily just prior to Saturday’s winners being announced, Eggers went over something else -- what it’s been like having completed in three state tournaments as an underclassman.
“The first year is definitely the worst because you don’t know what to expect. It’s like a whole new world,” she said. “Now it’s not like a whole new world, but it’s still amazing to me what people can do.”
On Saturday, Mahtomedi’s Kasey Lenarz won the vaulting competition with a 9.825. Mady Brinkman of Melrose Area and Jada Olsen of Perham tied for first on the bars with 9.650. Lenarz won the beam with 9.575 and Maddie Mullenbach of Austin won the floor with 9.800. Lenarz captured the all-around with 38.600.