Rachelle LeBlanc had to relearn how to attack the vault runway without anything in her hands.
The Little Falls Flyers freshman gymnast was a state pole vaulter last season, an experience she called one of the best in her young athletic career. But before that, LeBlanc made a name for herself as a gymnast.
She added to that success during the Flyers' season-opening 126.34-120.03 Central Lakes Conference victory over the Fergus Falls Otters Dec. 3.
LeBlanc won the vault, bars and floor to place first in the all-around with a 34.425.
"I was pretty happy with my scores," said LeBlanc. "There are different rules this year so I was really happy with how I was scoring."
She scored an 8.85 to win the vault, 8.55 to win bars and 8.95 for first on the floor. She finished third on beam with an 8.075.
"She's got a new beam and bar routine," said Flyers co-head coach and Rachelle's mother Shelley LeBlanc. "Her floor routine has more difficult tricks and she is still working with the vault. She's a hard worker and she doesn't have a big fear factor. She's always challenging herself with getting better."
Being in the same section as three-time defending Class 1A state champion Perham has made a trip to state elusive. The Star Tribune called Perham the best team in Minnesota regardless of class. Shelley LeBlanc called last year's Section 8-1A meet a reality check for her daughter.
Rachelle LeBlanc placed 10th in the all-around in last season's section meet with a 35.6. She was ninth on bars, seventh on beam, eighth on floor and 12th on vault.
She said all she can do is try her best in order to make state, which is a goal, but she has other goals, too.
"This is our last year in the (Central Lakes) Conference so I want to go out with a bang and make my mark," Rachelle said. "I'm trying not to think about it too much. Just keep my mind focused and not let it get in the way.
"I also want to get a 37 in the all-around and definitely beat each of my personal records."
Those personal records are 9.5 on floor, 9.55 on beam, 9.2 on vault and 9.2 on bars.
"She still has quite a few things she wants to add to each piece," said Shelley LeBlanc. "She isn't going to stick to what she has right now. She's looking to add more difficult tricks on the bars. Her beam she ... just needs to get her confidence up. On floor, she wants to put in extra things."
Rachelle, who plays soccer and is in track and field, said she is going for clean routines instead of overly difficult. She's hoping the judges will appreciate that approach.
"I have been making my floor harder because it is one of my strongest points and I'm focusing on that," she said. "I put in a double into my floor routine and my last pass is my hardest. I would have to say bars are my weakest.
"I think not having giants really cuts you from the rest of the crowd. I had a bad fall doing them and I can't do them by myself anymore. I've been trying to work around my dismount and get a few bonus points by making that perfect and trying to do some other unique and original stuff so the judges can remember me for that."
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Emily Lueck, Pequot Lakes, finished with 29 points, six assists and six steals against Little Falls and 18 points, five assists and five steals against Hibbing.
Whitney Weisz, Little Falls, finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds against Pequot Lakes and 21 points against Pierz.
Shauna Maurer, Pillager, finished with 19 points and 18 rebounds against Swanville.
Jackie White, Pillager, scored 22 points against Swanville.
Kelsey Grider, Lake Region, finished with 20 rebounds and 16 points against Maplewood Academy.
Caitlin Volkmann, Wadena-Deer Creek, scored 22 points against Sebeka.
Kelly Pearson, Staples-Motley, scored 24 points against Park Rapids.
Tatum Sheley, Pine River-Backus, scored 23 points against Litchfield.
Mattie Lueck, Pequot Lakes, finished with 22 points, six rebounds and four steals against Hibbing.
Meredith Chaput, Aitkin, scored 30 points against Hinckley-Finlayson.
Chelsey Bonsante, Crosby-Ironton, scored 24 points against Litchfield.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.