A jolly atmosphere enlivened Saturday's Brainerd Holiday Gymnastics Invitational.
Santa Claus (Warriors assistant coach Cynthia Rogers), wearing a leotard over her red suit, executed a few cartwheels and rolls before leading teams into the gym. A few coaches wore Santa hats, holiday ties or suspenders. Garland hung on the walls. Holiday treats were in abundant supply throughout the gym.
The eight teams treated the capacity crowd to some high-caliber gymnastics. The Class 2A defending state champion Lakeville Panthers scored 144.625 points to claim the team title. Park of Cottage Grove was runner-up with 142.75, Hopkins third with 142.15 and Brainerd fourth with 141.075.
"We knew the top seven places were going to be up for grabs," Warriors coach Dave Maras said. "We didn't feel we had a real great day. We had some great performances, but from top to bottom we left something to be desired."
Brainerd's Kathleen Lorenz had a great routine on the uneven bars, winning the event with a 9.65. She added a runner-up finish on balance beam and placed fourth in the all-around.
"Any time you're first or second at a meet of this caliber, in two separate events, you know you've had some pretty good routines," Maras said.
On the bars, Lorenz edged defending state champion Rachel Parker of Hopkins by 15/100ths of a point.
"It was like practice," Lorenz said of her routine. "I just tried to do my best."
Brainerd's Kathleen Lorenz placed fifth in floor exercise at the Warriors' holiday gymnastics invitational Saturday.
Lorenz led the beam with a 9.45 until Parker, the final competitor in the event, scored a 9.6 to win it.
"It was exciting," Lorenz said. "The girl that beat me was state champion. I'm happy for her. I missed her routine, though. I wish I would have seen it. I was on floor.
"The girls here were really good. Almost all of the teams were at the state meet."
In addition to her beam title, Parker won the all-around with 37.7 points. She was also last year's all-around state champion and placed third in the state on vault, beam and floor.
Melrose's Katie Niehaus won the vault with a 9.725 and Park's Cristina Ortiz paced floor exercise with a 9.725.
"Those are some pretty good names," Maras said. "Ortiz is one of the top gymnasts in the state and so is Parker."
Brainerd's Katie Perpich was third on bars and 10th in all-around to round out the Warriors' top 10 finishers.
"When you get into this kind of arena, with this kind of competition, kids really have to give their best," Maras said, "and I felt for the most part we did that. There were some things we didn't do but I'm sure it's the same with the other teams.
Maggie Freiday was congratulated by Brainerd teammates after placing 15th on the balance beam Saturday.
"We need, from top to bottom, to put the whole event together, not just have a few people picking up the slack."
Lorenz thought fourth place was satisfactory considering the number of mistakes Brainerd made.
"We had tons of mistakes," she said. "We could have done a lot better, but it will make us work harder."
Team scores -- 1-Lakeville 144.625, 2-Park of Cottage Grove 142.75, 3-Hopkins 142.15, 4-Brainerd 141.075, 5-Melrose 140.40, 6-Owatonna 138.60, 7-Big Lake 135.975, 8-Bemidji 128.65
Vault -- 1-Katie Niehaus (M) 9.725, 15-Katie Perpich (Brd) 9.1, 26-Jenny Carson (Brd) 8.75, 35-Lauren Trapp (Brd) 8.55, 38-Stephanie Peterson (Brd) 8.5, 38-Kathleen Lorenz (Brd) 8.5, 42-Amanda Johnson (Brd) 8.45
Uneven parallel bars -- 1-Lorenz 9.65, 3-Perpich 9.425, 18-Kara Rutman (Brd) 8.5, 19-Peterson 8.5, 23-Trapp 8.35, 38-Nicole Smith (Brd) 7.45
Balance beam -- 1-Rachel Parker (H) 9.6, 2-Lorenz 9.45, 15-Maggie Freiday (Brd) 8.5, 22-Perpich 7.95, 27-Danielle Arnold (Brd) 7.8, 36-Jessica Lofrano (Brd) 7.15, 45-Amanda Johnson 6.4
Floor exercise -- 1-Cristina Ortiz (Park) 9.725, 5-Lorenz 9.4, 12-Perpich 9.15, 14-Amanda Johnson 9.1, 22-Freiday 8.75, 35-Deyo 8.45, 37-Ariana Lofrano (Brd) 8.2
All-around -- 1-Parker 37.7, 2-Renae Zimmer (Lake) 37.25, 3-Niehaus 37.075, 4-Lorenz 37.0, 5-Ortiz 36.875, 6-Natalie Newton (H) 36.7, 7-Kandi Proell (Mel) 36.425, 8-Steph Barber (O) 36.0, 9-Jen Gossler (Lake) 36.0, 10-Perpich 35.625
Next meet -- Brainerd at Alexandria Jan. 2.
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