The Brainerd Warriors gymnastics season has been anything but perfect as they lost senior leader Molly Smith for the season because of injury.
But thanks to a 143.450-142.200 win over the Willmar Cardinals they finished the regular season of the Central Lakes Conference with a perfect 6-0 record and in good shape heading into the conference meet Feb. 2.
"This was really big," said Kathleen Lorenz. "We were really nervous about Willmar because they beat us last year in the conference meet. We didn't really do our best on vault and bars, but then we picked it up at the end."
It wasn't an easy win as Willmar put up a dog fight until the very end. Willmar's Beth Zimmer, who won the all-around with a 38.08 led the Cardinals to a 107.95-106.551 lead after three events. But like defending Section 8, Class 2A champions, Brainerd came back in near perfect style.
Brainerd Warriors coach Dave Maras (left) and Briana Lester shared a moment after Lester's performance on the uneven bars in Friday's Central Lakes Conference meet with Willmar. (Dispatch Photo by Clint Wood)
Thanks to another solid performance on the balance beam, Brainerd kept the score close enough so its floor exercise personnel could take over.
"We did really good on beam," said Lorenz. "A lot better than we have ever done.
"We've been working really hard on beam of late.
Annie Bahr set the tone with her 8.850. Bahr had been struggling the past couple meets, but hit her routine which set off a wildfire of excitement in the Warrior camp.
Katie Perpich followed Bahr with a 9.25 good for fifth. Kathleen Lorenz followed that up with a 9.4 for third and Amanda Johnson collected second place with a 9.4 with a head judge score of 9.4.
"Annie finally pulled off her floor routine," said Maras. "She had been kind of having problems. She just pulled it off and it just set the other girls in motion.
"This was kind of an emotional meet where so many things kept happening to pick us up. We had some key three pointers you might say, that pulled us back into the game."
The overall score of 36.900 on the floor exercise coupled with Willmar's less then stellar 34.150 score on the beam led to Brainerd's win.
Uncharacteristic of Brainerd was the way they struggled in their first two events. Usually strong in both, Brainerd couldn't find their footing on the vault. Lorenz finished with a 9.2, good for fourth place in the event.
The struggles then carried over into the uneven bars until Katie Perpich nailed her routine for a 9.55 to win the event. Briana Lester finished third with a 9.25 and Lorenz was fourth with an 8.9
"Both teams could look back and that could have made the difference," said Maras. "I thought when we vaulted so poorly that we flat out gave it away. Then we kind of missed the first couple of bar routines and I thought, man are we on a downhill slide here.
"Then all of a sudden Perpich started us rolling. We went to beam and Nikki Kronbeck had a nice night again and Katie and Kathleen finished it off and we get 35 points on beam. We're always satisfied with 35 points on beam."
Lorenz was the top all-around for Brainerd as she finished second with a 36.950.
"Our vaults weren't as good as they were in our last meet, but we're struggling with that," said Lorenz. "I was really disappointed in my bars, but I didn't get to warm up as much because my heels have been hurting."
Brainerd 143.450, Willmar 142.200
Uneven parallel bars -- 1-Katie Perpich (B) 9.55, 3-Briana Lester (B) 9.25, 4-Kathleen Lorenz (B) 8.9, 7-Stephanie Peterson (B) 8.1, 8-Kara Rutman 8.05
Balance beam -- 1-Beth Zimmer (W) 9.5, 2-Lorenz (B), 9.45, 3-Perpich (B) 9.1, 4-Nikki Kronbeck (B), 8.4, 7-Maggie Freiday (B), 8.1, 9-Danielle Arnold (B) 7.850
Floor exercise -- 1-Zimmer (W) 9.6, 2-Amanda Johnson (B) 9.4, 3-Lorenz (B) 9.4, 5-Perpich (B) 9.25, 7-Bahr 8.850, 9-Lauren Deyo 8.4
Vault -- 1-Zimmer (W) 9.6, 4-Lorenz (W) 9.2, 7-Lester (B), 8.9, 7-Perpich (B) 8.9, 9-Johnson (B) 8.7, 10-Bahr (B) 8.6
All-around -- 1-Zimmer (W) 38.050, 2-Lorenz (B) 36.950, 3-Perpich (B) 36.8
Conference -- B 9-0. Overall -- B 6-0. Next meet -- Brainerd vs. Sauk Centre 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
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