Raiders continue to post strong scores during 2nd-place finish
MEDFORD CO-OP GYMNASTICS
The Medford Co-op gymnastics team begins the crucial month of February still hoping to get its best lineup together at some point but also feeling good about where it stands.
The Raiders put up a solid team score of 125.975 Saturday to place second at the seven-team Valders-Roncalli Invitational. They were just behind Waupun (128.825), last year’s eighth-place team state finisher in Division 2, and just ahead of Valders-Roncalli (122.6).
While they competed without injured all-arounds Brooklyn Bilz and Anna Wanke, the Raiders got a boost with the season debut of junior Megan Wanke, a key member of last year’s state team who competed in three of Saturday’s events.
Her scores, combined with solid allaround efforts from Makala Ulrich and Kate Malchow and a handful of personal bests made it a positive meet.
“It was pretty exciting,” head coach Steve Cain said. “It was a very good day.”
The meet started with Medford getting its two toughest events out of the way, and getting strong scores in the pro- cess. That allowed the Raiders to build momentum for the floor exercise and vault, typically their top-scoring events.
On the uneven bars, Ulrich came up one spot short of a top-five finish with her sixth-place score of 7.625. Freshman Avery Purdy set a personal-best with her ninth-place score of 7.4. Wanke and Malchow tied for 10th with 7.325s and senior Kara Hudak set a personal record with her 16th-place score of 6.825.
Katie Thomsen of Valders-Roncalli led a field of 35 gymnasts in the event with an 8.575, while Port Washington’s Audrey Dickson and Waupun’s Isabella Doege both got 7.8.s.
Medford’s team score was 29.675, marking a second straight meet of small increases.
“We’re not struggling,” Cain said of the bars. “There was just a few mishaps.”
The Raiders also inched forward on the balance beam, earning a team score of 31.4. Since their tough 10-fall meet against Chequamegon, the Raiders have dropped to six at Mosinee on Jan. 21 and then to just two falls Saturday.
Ulrich led the way by taking third with an 8.275 that was just off her personal- best score of 8.35. Waupun’s Sara Miller (8.4) and Grace Lenz (8.3) were the only ones to beat her. Malchow got the last top-five spot with a personal-best 8.1 and Wanke’s first routine of the year got a 7.85 from the judges, good for eighth place. Purdy was 17th with a 7.175 and Hudak was 21st out of 35 with a 6.95.
“We got those two events put aside and that kinda gave the girls the momentum to go into the other events,” Cain said. “They were feeling good. I always try to get a feel for how the girls think they just did. They said they were doing really good. I said, ‘you are doing really good.’ I said, ‘keep it up.’” They did keep it up on the floor, earning 32.5 points and again putting three gymnasts in the top eight finishers.
Malchow was fifth with her 8.45 that just missed her personal-best of 8.5. Ulrich took seventh with an 8.25 and Wanke was eighth with her 8.15, which was just off her best score from last year of 8.25. Purdy set her second personal best of the day, tying for 13th at 7.65. Freshman Brooke Wegerer tied her personal best with a 7.4 and tied for 21st. Waupun’s Isabelle Doege won the event with a 9.1.
“On floor, they did a fantastic job,” Cain said. “Brooke tied a PR. For what she did and how she performed, the score didn’t show that tying of the PR. It showed better. I thought it was pretty remarkable. Avery, by 0.05, got her PR. She’s one of these kids, along with Kate, they’re steady. They’re consistent.”
Finishing on vault, Ulrich tied Abby Derouin of Escanaba, Mich. for fourth place with an 8.45, Malchow was sixth with an 8.35 that missed her personal best by 0.05, Hudak and Purdy tied for 17th with 7.8s and freshman Kiarah Behling was 19th with a personal-best 7.75. Jayme Jirikowic of Valders-Roncalli, Lenz and Doege tied for first with 8.7s.
“Kiarah is a kid that may be on varsity and may not be,” Cain said. “Here, she was able to be on varsity because of kids that couldn’t be there for one reason or another. So we were able to put her in a spot and what did she do? She stepped up to the plate and she did great. Makala is coming back up. She did great. Kara and Avery were not quite to PRs but again, they were consistent and solid.”
Ulrich placed fifth in the all-around standings with 32.6 total points, Malchow was sixth with 32.225 points, not far from the 32.4 she had at Marshfield Dec. 19, and Purdy had a personal-best total of 30.025 points, good for 12th.
Thomsen (33.575), Jirikowic (33.3), Doege (33.3) and Lenz (32.95) were the top four.
Port Washington (118.2), Escanaba (114.475), Markesan (113.925) and Kaukauna (103.75) rounded out the day’s team scores.
Cain said Medford’s depth has been evident in the last few meets. As injuries and illness have crept in, gymnasts have stepped up. He pointed to Wegerer, Behling and Olivia Krug as gymnasts who have shown they can fill spots.
“These are kids that are like, ‘what can I do to be on the varsity lineup?’” Cain said. “‘What can I do for the team to get up there?’ They want to get better, they want to improve their score so they practice hard.”
Medford is at the Antigo Invitational this Saturday with competition starting at 10 a.m. That will be followed by the last two GNC Small Division dual meets of the season, which are home against Lakeland Feb. 6 and at Rhinelander Feb. 11, both at 5:45 p.m. The Rhinelander dual will likely decide who goes into the Feb. 22 conference meet as the Small Division leader.