Sauk Centre's Laura Blank is the two-time defending Class A state champion in the all-around competition and in three events.
Some gymnastics fans may have expected Blank to dominate Thursday's meet against the Brainerd Warriors. Blank did win the vault and uneven parallel bars but it was the Warriors who dominated. Brainerd's superior depth resulted in a 141.85 to 121.15 non-conference victory over the Mainstreeters.
"Laura's been bothered by a pinched nerve in her back," Sauk Centre coach Dave Bruggeman said. "She landed a little short on her first vault and jammed it a little bit. It's been a nagging thing for her so far."
Not much was nagging Brainerd's Tara Schmidt and Molly Smith. Schmidt won the balance beam with a 9.15, tying her career high, and won the all-around with 34.9 points. Smith won the floor exercise with 9.15 points.
Schmidt said her beam routine "felt really awesome.
"I always feel uneasy going into it but it turns out OK," she said. "I just have to keep my head up and finish."
Brainerd coach Dave Maras said Schmidt finishes what teammates Kathleen Lorenz, Shayna McCulloch, Katherine Wilcox and Amanda Rau start on beam.
"It's nice to have the first three in front of you all hit their routines," Maras said. "Then we're looking at Tara and from there on it's gravy. Tara goes out and doesn't have maybe one or two wobbles in her routine. That gives us four no-fall routines.
"That's two meets in a row we've hit four or five beam routines."
Maras said Smith has added difficulty in her tumbling passes on the floor.
"Molly does a 1 1/2 twist on her first pass," Maras said. "Then she does a front tumble into another twist on her second pass. She does another twist on her third pass. Her difficulty has improved."
Smith also collected a runner-up finish on vault.
"Molly has changed her vault from a tuck Tsuk to a pike Tsuk," Maras said. "That's helped bring her score up a couple tenths (of a point). She's hitting midseason stride. Everything she does is getting stronger and better. She just needs to work to continually clean stuff up."
The 141.85 points were a season high for the Warriors, surpassing the 141.55 they scored Jan. 13 in a win against Willmar.
"We had a couple falls on bars that was somewhat unusual," Maras said, "and a couple kids made boo-boos on the floor. Other than that we cleaned up pretty good."
Brainerd 141.85, Sauk Centre 121.15
Uneven parallel bars -- 1-Laura Blank (SC) 9.55, 2-Amanda Rau (B) 9.2, 3-Brianna Lester (B) 8.9, 4-Crystal Yaunick (B) 8.65, 5-Tara Schmidt (B) 7.9, 7-Molly Zauhar (B) 7.15
Balance beam -- 1-Schmidt 9.15, 2-Kathleen Lorenz (B) 9.0, 3-Shayna McCulloch (B) 8.5, 4-Katherine Wilcox (B) 8.45, 5-Rau 8.2
Floor exercise -- 1-Molly Smith (B) 9.15, 2-Amanda Johnson (B) 9.1, 3-Schmidt 9.1, 4-Yaunick 8.95, 4-Annalisa Aakhus (B) 8.95
Vault -- 1-Blank 9.55, 2-Smith 9.4, 3-Rau 8.95, 4-Schmidt 8.75, 5-Annie Bahr (B) 8.7, 6-Zauhar 8.6
All-around -- 1-Schmidt 34.9
Conference -- B 4-0. Overall -- B 5-0, SC 6-3. Next meet -- Brainerd at Fergus Falls 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
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