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Gymnastics team wins title No. 8

MIKAELA EICKSCHEN of Perham takes a high leap during her state beam routine Saturday.

The one weakness of the Perham gymnastics team turned into a strength, leading the Yellowjackets to their state-record eighth consecutive Minnesota Class 1A state gymnastics title Friday afternoon at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.

Uneven bars, the apparatus where Perham appeared mortal during the season, turned up the Perham scores and smiles, led by senior leader Kelsi Vomacka's 9.550.

"Usually on bars, we don't hit so well, but we hit today," Vomacka said.

Carly Petersen added a 9.050 and - combined with Satera Montella (8.775) and Alexis Peichel (8.825) - Perham's 36.2 team score was best of the eight participating teams on admittedly their worst event.

The Yellowjackets opened on floor and vault scoring 36.660 and 37.150, respectively, lower than typical, but still good for third and a tie for second in each event.

"That's from not getting the scores we deserved," Vomacka said. "But that's what you get when you're the first team out."

Vomacka led the Yellowjackets in three of four events. Her 9.450 was second to Montella's 9.525. Montella is the only junior on the squad and will return as the leader of next year's team seeking their ninth state title.

Vomacka's confidence was a motivating factor throughout the meet.

Her voice could be heard cheering on her teammates when she was not busy putting up her usual huge numbers.

That same confidence was heard from head coach Charlie Fleck as Jordan Martinson finished the final beam performance.

"You put this away," he shouted. "You got this thing wrapped up."

Martinson, a seventh grader, anchored the beam rotation and came up with the second highest score on the team, 8.80, bested only by Vomacka's 9.550.

"Jordan's beam performance was big," Vomacka said.

Led all year by the trio of seniors, Vomacka, Petersen and Mikaela Eickschen, one point that the three have made all year was the need for a fourth score and how some of their younger teammates were going to have to step up when it counts.

Martinson did exactly that.

Perham, 146.025, finished a full point and a half ahead of second-place Becker, 144.475, and two and a half points ahead of third-place Melrose Area, 143.450.

The Yellowjackets appeared under the pressure of keeping the team's title winning streak going. Grins grew on their faces as the meet progressed.

A business-like floor exercise routine and vault performance led to uneven bars, where the surprise of their boosted performance on bars was evident.

Their adaptability is the essence of the confidence necessary to win eight consecutive championships.

"Like every meet, but you have to deal with the pressure," Vomacka said.

It was an emotional meet. Vomacka was in tears as Martinson stuck her landing from the beam and the wait was on for final results with one rotation to go.

"I was breathless," Eickschen said.

Class 1A state meet at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion, Friday, Feb. 25

Team scores: Perham 146.025, Becker 144.475, Melrose Area 143.450, New Prague 139.825, Martin County Area 139.750, Breck 138.125, Pine Island 136.800, Delano 136.000.

Perham totals

Floor exercise: Montella 9.525, Vomacka 9.450, Eickschen 9.250, Peichel 8.375, Petersen 8.050. Total 36.600.

Balance beam: Vomacka 9.550, Martinson 9.000, Petersen 8.775, Montella 8.750, Eickschen 8.750. Total 36.075.

Uneven bars: Vomacka 9.550, Petersen 9.050, Peichel 8.825, Montella 8.775, Martinson 7.550. Total 36.200.

Vault: Vomacka 9.600/9.375, Martinson 9.250/9.175, Montella 9.150/9.000, Petersen 9.150/9.000.