In a sport that can be either an individual or a team competition the Brainerd Warriors dominated all aspects of their Central Lakes Conference meet Thursday against the St. Cloud Apollo Eagles.
Even with Amanda Johnson out of the lineup the Warriors didn't need their fifth floor routine in a 141.775 to 113.55 victory.
Brainerd's Molly Smith placed first on the vault, uneven bars and all-around.
"I have a wonderful time out there," said Smith. "It's a blast. I love gymnastics. I used to be in basketball but then I came to gymnastics. It used to be a conflict because I still love basketball but not any more."
Brainerd Warriors Annalisa Aakus performed on the balance beam.. She placed second with a score of 8.8.
Smith, who placed 11th on the vault at the Class AA individual state meet last year, nailed her vaults Thursday. She finished with a 9.55.
"There was a lot of prayer," said Smith about her vault. "When I'm running up there I'm thinking, 'Lord, this is for you and not me,' and afterwards it was, 'Thank you, Jesus.'"
On the bars Smith used two giants, an overshoot and a layout flyaway dismount to score a 9.4.
"Molly has just come so far," said Warriors coach Dave Maras. "Last year she was merely a junior varsity competitor on bars. Here she goes 9.4. She had a fantastic bar routine.
"It was probably our best bar routine for this early in a year for a long time. Then she goes out and nails her vault. Then she goes to beam and she did a good job. She made a couple of mistakes near the end but on floor she came back and she's just tremendously powerful. She has a lot of speed and power. Her routine is loaded with difficulty but she just goes out and pounds away. She's just an incredible athlete."
Smith was relieved to win the all-around. The modest junior later said it was a total team effort and it had nothing to do with her.
Her coach agreed but disagreed with his athlete about the individual and team concepts of gymnastics.
"Individuals make up a team so every individual effort becomes a team effort," said Maras. "People confuse the team concept with the individual concept. It's kind of one in the same as far as this sport is concerned. Yes, it's a total team effort, however, it takes individuals to make up a total team. The individuals have to do their job.
"In this sport where everyone is out competing by themselves they're the show. They don't get a lot of help from anyone."
But Maras was pleased with the overall team effort put forth by the Warriors. In a sport where the pressure of standing out alone is stressful enough the need to be perfect can also be a distraction.
Thanks to some quality early performances in every event the Warriors were just enjoying themselves Thursday.
"You have five competitors and four count," said Maras. "For everybody that hits (their routine) it takes pressure off the others. If all five hit you have money in the bank.
"If somebody falls it puts pressure on the other kids to an extent that they have to hit because only four count."
The Warriors helped each other out Thursday. Annalisa Aakhus, who was third on the balance beam, paved the way for her teammates with an 8.8. Kathleen Lorenz was then able to go up next with less pressure and nailed a 9.275 for first place.
Maras had more examples of the team concept as Brainerd dominated by sweeping all four places on beam, floor and bars.
"Briana Lester isn't fancy," Maras said about his junior's bar routine. "She's not coming in with the big scores, but if you look at the last couple of meets she's been 9.0, 9.0. There's the individual giving to the team.
"Here's a kid who just says, 'Here we have a couple of nice scores, here's my nine.'
"Even though her score didn't reflect it Tara was the first on bars and she knew she had to pick it up and she had the best bar routine she's had all year. She got us going. That first kid is so crucial."
Brained 141.775, St. Cloud Apollo 113.55
Uneven parallel bars -- 1-Molly Smith (9.4), 2-Briana Lester (8.95), 3-Katie Perpich (8.6), 4-Kathleen Lorenz (8.4), 5-Tara Schmidt (8.2)
Balance beam -- 1-Lorenz (9.275), 2-Annalisa Aakhus (8.8), 3-Perpich (8.3), 4-Schmidt (8.25), 5-Smith (7.65)
Floor exercise -- 1-Aakhus (9.2), 2-Smith (9.05), 3-Lorenz (8.8), 4-Perpich (8.8).
Vault -- 1-1-Smith (9.55), 2-Perpich (9.25), 3-Annie Bahr (8.75), 6-Aakhus (8.4), 7-Schmidt (8.4)
All-around -- 1-Smith (35.65), 2-Perpich (34.95)
Conference -- B 2-0. Overall -- B 2-0. Next meet -- Brainerd at Alexandria 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
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