State gymnasts showcase twist, twirl and stick landings

Three St. Francis gymnasts took to the Class AA state gymnastics floor at the University of Minnesota’s Sports Pavillon Feb. 23.

St. Francis senior Katie Bownik scored an 8.850 on the bars during the individual portion of the state Class AA gymnastics meet Feb. 23. Photo by Bill Jones

St. Francis senior Katie Bownik scored an 8.850 on the bars during the individual portion of the state Class AA gymnastics meet Feb. 23. Photo by Bill Jones

Seniors Mackenzie Walsh and Katie Bownik left it all on the mats as they finished their high school gymnastics careers at the ultimate meet of any gymnast – the state meet.

Each competed in multiple events with Bownik placing 25th on the bars (8.850) and 29th on the floor exercise (8.675).

Walsh scored a 29th-place finish on the vault (9.100) and 30th on the floor (8.4875).

Bownik scored an 8.100 on the bars to place 30th last season when she didn’t stick the landing.

Sticking the landing weighed on her mind heading into state this season. “That’s all I was focused on and my routine was better than last year,” Bownik said.

She was more calm this year on the bars, but was worried going into her floor routine, according to Bownik.

“My warm-up on the floor wasn’t good,” Bownik said because the state meet floor was more bouncy. “So I had to not run as hard on the tumbling passes and just squeeze [rotations] as tight as you can.”

She stepped out of bounds by an inch early in the routine on the first tumbling pass which docked her one-tenth of a point.

“Knowing that it’s state and you messed up I just stayed strong and pressed through it,” Bownik said.

Walsh wanted to go out on a high note and she pulled off her best vault score of the season. Her landing helped her score a season best and said she was excited beforehand.

“Getting to sections was more nerve-racking,” Walsh said.

The view from competing was a lot better than the view from the stands, she said. “It was so much better to be the one competing than watching everyone and wishing you were out there,” Walsh said.

Saints ninth-grader Natalie Wasche finished 29th on the vault with a 9.100 in her first state experience on her second-best apparatus. She said the beam is her strongest event, but a slip at sections cost her a spot at state.

While she didn’t match her season best score of 9.3, Wasche wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

“I was really excited to be there as a freshman and not to be the one watching but to have so many people there supporting you,” she said.

Dealing with first-time nerves was something she thought about before the meet, Wasche said. “I told myself to take it all in and turn those nerves into positive energy,” she said. “It was definitely different with a ton of people watching you than what we normally have.”

Wasche narrowly missed out on representing the section in the all-around as the top four scores moved on to state. She finished fifth, 0.1 point back, after helping the team capture another North Suburban Conference team title. She won the all-around conference meet, too.

Blaine junior Julia Hoffman scored a 9.100 on the beam to place 13th in Class AA.

Jason Olson is at jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

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