ST. PAUL -- Last week, Little Falls gymnast Danielle Atkinson struggled in practice on her uneven parallel bar routine. The junior couldn't get through the routine without falling.
That spelled trouble with the Class 1A state meet looming.
Fast forward to Saturday at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Atkinson, competing in the all-around competition, scored a 9.5 on vault before competing on bars.
The junior put the past week of struggles behind her and nailed her bar routine, scoring a 9.725, winning the Class 1A uneven parallel bars state championship.
"I think everything came together at state," Atkinson said. "I'd been having a rough time this past week getting through the routine. I would always fall somewhere."
Class 1A state gymnastics
The key: Little Falls' Danielle Atkinson swung a near flawless uneven parallel bars routine to capture the state championship.
Atkinson finished sixth in the all-around with a score of 37.125, as well as placing sixth on vault. Ashley Brasel of Perham won the all-around with a score of 37.825.
Little Falls co-head coach Shelly LeBlanc thought Atkinson's most formidable competition would come from New Prague's Melanie Deutsch or any Perham gymnast. She also knew if Atkinson stuck her routine, she would be difficult to beat.
"When (Deutsch) fell I knew we had a very good chance to win bars," said LeBlanc. "Danielle also stuck the handstand on the low bar and it was very clean. It was a great routine."
After the first two events, Atkinson held a slight lead on the all-around title. On balance beam the junior scored a 9.25 to place seventh overall. The floor routine proved to be her unraveling as she managed an 8.65.
It didn't help that athletes were forced to sit for 10 minutes, while staff worked to get the sound system running.
"We wanted to make sure Danielle stayed loose but I think there was too much time in between to let her think about it," said Flyers co-head coach Kent Gomez.
"I was nervous and a little shaky, but I was getting through it," Atkinson said of her floor routine. "But, on my second pass, I started having a hard time breathing and after that it was downhill from there."
Winning the all-around was Atkinson's goal heading into state. She'll have to wait a year for another shot. That's fine with her because now she has a taste of success and wants more.
"I was happy to place in the all-around but at the same time I was disappointed," said Atkinson. "This is only my first year in high school gymnastics so making it in the top six in state is a good achievement.
"My goal was to be the No. 1 all-around gymnast. I want to go train hard this summer and learn a bunch of new skills that maybe the other girls won't have."
At the gymnastics banquet Thursday, Atkinson was honored as an All-State Elite Gymnast. The top five gymnasts in 1A and 2A are honored with Elite status.
Class 1A state gymnastics results
Uneven parallel bars -- 1-Danielle Atkinson (Little Falls) 9.725, 2-Amy Daniels (Marshall) 9.55, 3-Kourtney Johnston (Perham) 9.475, 4-Amy Knudson (Mankato East) 9.30, 5-Ashley Brasel (Perham) 9.275.
Balance beam -- 1-Steph Solheid (New Prague) 9.525, 2-Alli Hull (Perham) 9.45, 3-Chris Claussen (Watertown-Mayer) 9.45, 4-Kristin Busch (New Prague) 9.40, 5-Jessica Johnson (Big Lake) 9.35, 7-Atkinson (LF) 9.25.
Floor exercise -- 1-Johnston (Perham) 9.725, 2-Miranda Schmitz (Perham) 9.625, 3-Melanie Deutsch (New Prague) 9.55, 4-Johnson (Big Lake) 9.525, 5-Knudson (Mankato East) 9.525, 28-Atkinson (LF) 8.65.
Vault -- 1-Knudson (Mankato East) 9.85, 2-Daniels (Marshall) 9.725, 3-Dana Dierkhising (Melrose) 9.6, 4-Betsy Mann (Perham) 9.575, 5-Pam Dickman (Rockford) 9.525, 6-Atkinson (LF) 9.5.
troy gunderson can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5865.
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