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With added depth, Raiders look to build off of outstanding year


The Medford gymnastics team ended last season feeling both the euphoria of being WIAA Division 2 state qualifiers and the disappointment of wondering what might have been had they taken a healthy team to the championship meet.

This season begins with the goal of trying to find out what the Raiders can fully achieve.

With at least three letter winners from last year’s team still on board and an impressive crew of freshman newcomers, there is no question Medford is capable of another season-ending trip to Wisconsin Rapids for both individual and team competition at state.

Fourth-year head coach Steve Cain said the squad –– which is now officially a three-school co-op between Medford, Colby and Gilman –– is definitely deeper than it was a year ago and should better be able to sustain some hits to the lineup, should they arise.

But there is still a step-by-step process that must be followed to get back to where the Raiders were last February and March when they won the Great Northern Conference’s Small Division championship and finished second behind Ashland at the WIAA Division 2 Antigo sectional.

“The girls have goals,” Cain said. “I put up a goal chart for each meet. That’s what the girls need to do. They fill out that goal chart for each meet and then, of course, they have to document their achievements. That will help them with preparations for those meets.”

The first of those meets is Medford’s second annual Hot Cocoa Invitational, set for Saturday, Dec. 7 at Medford Area Elementary School. The Raiders will welcome Great Northern Conference rivals Mosinee, Rhinelander and Chequamegon to the meet as well as Escanaba, Mich. The first events start at 9 a.m.

Medford starts the year with 16 gymnasts of varying experience levels and abilities. The numbers were boosted by influx of new sophomores looking to try the sport for the first time and the freshmen who bring years of club experience. Heading the list are sophomores Brooklyn Bilz and Makala Ulrich.

Bilz was the GNC Small Gymnast of the Year, winning the all-around, floor exercise and uneven bars titles. Ulrich was second in the GNC Small Division in all four events and in the allaround