When the Magic gymnastics team entered Christmas break with their worst meet of the year, they had two options. They could sit around and stew over it. Or they could get to work, and make sure post-Christmas break went better. The young team went to work.
“I thought we had some really good practices over Christmas,” said Coach Brent Wuollet.
The gymnasts returned from break to take on Maple Lake Friday night and they turned in one of their two best meets of the year, cruising past the visitors, 132.5 to 121.675.
“It was exactly what we needed,” said Wuollet. “And it was exactly what I was looking for.”
The Magic were led, from the start, by their dynamic duo of Kennedy Bican and Mikara Mitchell.
During the vault, Monticello’s first event of the night, Mitchell injected some early energy into her teammates. Performing a new vault for the first time, the sophomore nailed it, even sticking the landing, for a score of 8.93.
“It was a great way for the team to start the meet,” said Wuollet.
Bican backed her up. The seventh grader landed her difficult vault for the first time this year, scoring an 8.95 for a first place finish in the event, and the Magic, who had just landed their most impressive 1-2 punch of the young season, were well on their way to a good meet.
Scores stayed consistently good for Monticello throughout the meet.
Bican led the way again on the bars, finishing first at the meet with a score of 8.075. Emily Dockendorf finished second, scoring 7.93, and Mitchell made it a top-three sweep with a score of 7.45.
On the beam, it was Bican, again. The seventh-grade all-arounder scored an 8.4, winning the event by a convincing margin. Mitchell was more than solid again, her impressive routine earned her an 8.125 and a second place finish. Gabbie Kittel (7.85) finished third for the Magic.
Last, came the floor exercises, which Wuollet said may have been the most impressive exercise of the night for his team.
Many of the girls used the extra practice time over Christmas break to work on new skills, things they had not yet added to their routine. Most of them, on their own, decided to go for the new skills in their routine on Friday night.
“It is huge that they had the confidence to go for it,” said Wuollet, adding that most of the girls were successful in their new routines.
Mitchell was one of many who the new skills paid off for. Her routine earned her an 8.8, the highest score at the meet on Friday.
She was followed closely by Taylor Boraas and Kittel, as they both earned 8.73 and tied for second place.
Bican, who had added an especially high degree of difficulty skill, a double twist, to her routine took a fall in the event, but still scored an 8.7. Wuollet said without the fall, her routine would’ve earned close to a 9.2.
When the scores were tallied up, Bican’s score of 34.13 was more than good enough for a victory in the all-around competition. Mitchell finished second with a score of 33.3
“Kennedy and Mikara both had outstanding meets,” said Wuollet.
But, the coach was also quick to point out that the team’s success ran a lot deeper than his dynamic duo on Friday night. And that it will need to continue to do so.
“The level of excitement and energy we had as a team was different than what I saw before break,” said Wuollet, who thought that adding skills and therefore, difficulty, to the routines might have raised the level of intensity. “It was a snowball effect. Everyone wants to do better.”
That’s even trickled down through the junior varsity, as girls on that team have been pushing upward recently and are starting to make things competitive with the varsity girls.
“The junior varsity is giving us great depth,” said Wuollet. “They’re creating competition, and that is going to make us a stronger team.”
Wuollet also hopes it helps the team stay focused. With a young team, he expected there to be some ups and downs this season, but he didn’t expect the team to score quite as low as they did before Christmas break.
“That was an eye opener,” he said.
But with the increased competition, with themselves, their teammates and their opponents, Wuollet believes the girls are headed in the right direction. And it is at precisely the right time. After an invite at Princeton on Saturday, where the Magic will get to try out a few more new things, it’s back to the conference schedule, where every routine is important.
“We have to make sure we’re competing our best when we get back to conference,” said Wuollet. “We just need to be a little better each meet, and not have that drop.”
Friday, the Magic were at their best. In the coming weeks and months, they’ll look to better that.
The Princeton Invitational begins at 12:15 Saturday afternoon.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com