There were only two ways the Central Lakes Conference gymnastics dual meet season would shake out for the Brainerd Warriors.
If Brainerd defeated the visiting Willmar Cardinals Thursday, it would have sole possession of the dual meet season crown. Lose and the Warriors would share that distinction with Willmar and St. Cloud Tech.
The Warriors didn't disappoint as they put together a near perfect night, beating Willmar 146.85 to 143.40 to claim the first half of the conference championship.
"We spent the better part of the year trying to put everything together," Maras said. "(Thursday) we put some big things together. We had great performances from a lot of kids."
The uneven parallel bars was one routine where the Class 2A fifth-ranked Warriors shined. Brainerd scored 37.15 as all five gymnasts hit their routines. None was bigger than when sophomore Kara Rutman scored a 9.45.
"Our bar routine was sensational and it was clean," Maras said. "Kara Rutman had the best routine of her career. Having her swing a routine the way she did was huge.
"But you can't take anything away from our first two kids. Nicole Smith is filling in for Lauren Trapp and she swings an 8.9 bar routine. It was big."
But the Cardinals were more than capable of putting up big numbers and stayed close to Brainerd due largely to the performance of senior Beth Zimmer. Zimmer won the bars and scored 9.75 to take the floor exercise.
But Warrior senior Katie Perpich edged Zimmer in the all-around. Both athletes scored 37.6, but Perpich got the nod because of a superior judge's score of 37.8.
Perpich didn't win any individual events but put together another consistent meet, scoring 9.5 on bars, 9.4 on balance beam, 9.4 on floor and 9.3 on vault.
"I couldn't believe I beat (Zimmer) out because she's so good," Perpich said. "I couldn't believe that I was that close to her. It was all just kind of an average night for me. I missed a trick on bars but still got a decent score."
There were no stare downs between Zimmer and Perpich, two of the top gymnasts in the CLC. Instead, the two athletes, in fact the two teams, clapped and cheered each other on.
"There's a lot of mutual respect between Beth, Kathleen (Lorenz) and Katie. They were always clapping for each other when they were competing. To me that's what this is all about. It's fun to compete against good gymnasts who respect each other."
Event winners for Brainerd were Lorenz on balance beam (9.6) and Maggie Freiday on vault (9.35).
Brainerd 146.85, Willmar 143.40
Uneven parallel bars -- 1-Beth Zimmer (W) 9.6, 2-Katie Perpich (B) 9.5, 3-Kara Rutman (B) 9.45, 4-Kathleen Lorenz (B) 9.3, 5-Nicole Smith (B) 8.9, 7-Tonya Redshaw (B) 8.85
Balance beam -- 1-Lorenz (B) 9.6, 2-Perpich (B) 9.4, 5-Tessa Helland (B) 8.55, 9-Maggie Freiday (B) 8.15, 10-Jessica Lofrano (B) 7.95
Floor exercise -- 1-Zimmer (B) 9.75, 2-Lorenz (B) 9.55, 3-Perpich (B) 9.4, 4-Helland (B) 9.35, 6-Lauren Deyo (B) 9.25, 8-Freiday (B) 9.05
Vault -- 1-Freiday (B) 9.35, 3-Perpich (B) 9.3, 6-Deyo (B) 8.9, 7-Lorenz (B) 8.9, 8-Trapp (B) 8.7
All-around -- 1-Perpich (B) 37.6, 3-Lorenz (B) 37.35
Conference -- B 7-0, W 5-2. Overall -- B 8-0, W 7-3. Next meet -- Brainerd in CLC meet at St. Cloud Apollo Feb. 7.
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