The 2011-12 Brainerd gymnastics team is a work in progress, and the Warriors took another step in the right direction with a solid performance in the Brainerd Holiday Invite on Saturday.
With a field that included two of the best programs in the state, the Warriors took fifth place in the field of eight teams.
Madison Grausam had the top performance of the day for Brainerd with a score of 9.00 on the vault, which was good for eighth place. Rachel Hoffman had a top 10 finish in the uneven parallel bars with a 8.60, which placed her ninth.
Park of Cottage Grove and Melrose were schools that stood out as they battled each other to the finish with spectacular performances in a number of the events.
Kasondra Tulloch of Park won the uneven parallel bars and vault. Rachel Deephouse of Park won the floor exercise, while Maren Seljevold of Moorhead took first on balance beam.
Tulloch also took first in the all-around competition.
The tough competition was typical of the talent that Brainerd head coach Dave Maras is able to bring in for the event each year.
“I think those two teams (Park and Melrose) are two of the best in the state right now,” Maras said, “especially Melrose in Class A. I know Park of Cottage Grove was second or third in the state last year and they have everyone back. It’s fun to see that caliber of performance because it gets our kids to thinking that they can do it too.”
At the start of the season Maras pointed out that his team would do special things, but they would happen later in the season after some of his younger competitors got more experience.
Maras was pleased with the strong start the Warriors had Saturday.
“I thought everybody had an event where they had a little bobble but for the most part I thought they competed really hard,” he said. “This time of year, and with this kind of environment, it’s tough.
“I thought we had a good day. We started out a lot stronger then we did on Thursday night. We had good bars and vault today.”
Brainerd competed on vault first, and Grausam hit a 9.00 on her first run. Mikayla Cerney was consistent with an 8.75 on both of her tries. Rachel Hoffman scored 8.55, which placed her in the top 20 for individuals.
The Warriors moved on to uneven bars with Hoffman getting her best performance of the day, taking ninth with an 8.60. Cerney also cracked the top 10 with an 8.55.
The beam wasn’t quite as kind as Cerney was the only Warrior to finish in the top 20, taking 11th place with a 9.10.
During the floor routine, the Brainerd team was distracted as a Park competitor fell off the bars and was down for a while. She walked off with help, but it still was in the Warriors’ minds as they competed on floor. Grausam came away with 15th place, and Hoffman 19th, but it certainly wasn’t the finish the Warriors were looking for.
Even though Brainerd sputtered at the end, Maras was happy with the performance and believes his girls are right on the time line that he predicted at the start of the year.
“I think we have some good things coming, but I think we did some things awfully well today,” he said. “Some really good things have happened in the last couple of weeks.
“In this sport you need to be consistent and you need to do the skills. I still feel like we are learning and getting better and in four or five weeks we will get to where we need to be.”
Team scores: 1-Melrose 143.250, 2-Park of Cottage Grove 142.80, 3-Lakeville North 141.05, 4-Big Lake 138.95, 5-Brainerd 134.90, 6-Lakeville South 134.60, 7-Moorhead 133.75, 8-St. Paul Johnson 108.90
Uneven parallel bars: 1-Kasondra Tulloch (PCG) 9.60, 9-Rachel Hoffman (Brd) 8.60, 10-Mikayla Cerney (Brd) 8.55, 12-Lonie Anderson (Brd) 8.30, 16-Madison Grausam (Brd) 8.10, 35-Anna Bieganek (Brd) 7.15, 42-Jacquelin Caughey (Brd) 6.75, 45-Jenny Muesing (Brd) 6.45, 51-Abbey Selisker (Brd) 5.50.
Balance beam: 1-Maren Seljevold (Mhd) 9.50, 11-Cerney 9.10, 25-Grausam 8.40, 40-Rachel Hoffman 7.80, 45-Caughey 7.40, 47-Kaylee Hoffman (Brd) 7.20, 49-Meg Foster (Brd) 7.00, 50-Morgan Steffen (Brd) 6.90, 55-Rebekah Hoffman (Brd) 6.60.
Floor exercise: 1-Rachel Deephouse (PCG) 9.65, 15-Grausam 9.00, 19-Rachel Hoffman 8.55, 35-Cerney 8.30, 40-Jaelyn King (Brd) 8.20, 46-Caughey 7.85, 47-Brianna Ruiz (Brd) 7.80, 48-Foster 7.70.
Vault: 1-Tulloch (PCG) 9.50, 8-Grausam 9.00, 12-Cerney 8.75, 17-Rachel Hoffman 8.55, 31-Selisker 8.30, 45-Caughey 8.10, 47-Muesing 8.00, 59-Olivia Klinger 7.70, 61-Kali Bible 7.50.
All-around: 1-Tulloch (PCG) 37.95, 11-Cerney 34.70, 12-Grausam 34.50, 16-Rachel Hoffman 33.50, 29-Caughey 30.10.
Next: Brainerd at Willmar 6 p.m. Thursday.