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Seventh heaven
Hillmen gymnastics team qualifies for seventh straight state meet
Platteville junior Grace Hammermeister finished second on the balance beam at Fridays WIAA Division 2 Southwestern sectional. She also won the floor exercise and finished fifth in the all-around to help the Hillmen place second as a team.

     The streak will go on.

     The Platteville/Belmont/Lancaster gymnastics team finished second at Friday’s WIAA Division 2 Southwestern Sectional, finishing ahead of the host Wildcats, to earn a seventh straight trip to the Team State Championships.

     Mount Horeb, ranked third in Division 2, dominated Saturday’s sectional competition, winning the team title with a score of 134.95.

     A week after finishing second to Southwestern/Cuba City/Benton at the Southwest Wisconsin Conference Championships, the Platteville/Belmont/Lancaster tri-op got the last laugh, edging the Wildcats 128.8255–127.15 for the second and final berth at team state. The top two teams at each of the five Division 2 sectionals qualified for team state, which will be held Friday at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School, beginning at 2 p.m.

     “This opportunity is what we aim for every year,” said Hillmen coach Jessica Hill. “It is important to focus on the long-term goal and not get too caught up in missed steps on the way. This year the gymnasts embraced the psychological preparation and goal setting. With a team that had a long way to go at the beginning of the year, I believe this focus was a game changer.

     “Our gymnasts like the equipment at Southwestern, so we saw the competition location as an advantage. We believed going in we had the skills and the ability to qualify for state.”

     Hill said the key to Friday’s second-place finish was not beating themselves.

     “There is a lot of pressure at this meet and it often leads to gymnasts performing below their ability,” added Hill. “We spent a significant portion of the week before sectionals mentally preparing. We did not have a good start on vault. It was important to put it behind us and move on. That is exactly what we did. We had solid performances on bars, well executed skills on beam, and we finished strong on floor. Beam and floor are typically our strength so the WIAA designated rotation was also in our favor.”

     SWC rival Dodgeville/Mineral Point will join the Hillmen at team state this year after finishing second at Friday’s Baraboo Sectional.

     “The team is very excited to be returning to state this year,” added Hill. “The higher level of competition throughout the conference this year kept us motivated to continually improve through out the season. The other teams were a constant reminder of what would be expected to move forward in the tournament. In an effort to compete with them we were always looking for ways to add to our routine difficulty.”

     P/B/L will also have two gymnasts competing in Saturday’s individual state championships, which begin at 11 a.m. Platteville junior Grace Hammermeister became a three-year individual state qualifier and Lancaster senior Alyssa Bainbridge earned her first trip to the individual state championships.

     Hammermeister, who placed second at state in the floor exercise a year ago, will again compete on the floor, as well as the beam and in the all-around competition at individual state.

     Hammermeister won the sectional title in the floor exercise with a score of 9.3, finished second on the beam (8.9) and fifth in the all-around (33.525).

     “Grace has had an outstanding floor routine all season,” said Hill. “I would have expected no less from her. Her dedication to the sport has permitted her to learn high level skills done with excellent form. She makes the high level skills look effortless. Throughout  the season her beam continuously improved. She added a higher level dismount and the difficulty level allowed her to place second.”

     Bainbridge tied for fifth on the uneven bars with a score of 8.05 to earn her first trip to individual state.

     “This opportunity is very special to Alyssa,” said Hill. “Last year she learned it doesn’t matter how hard you work, your dreams can quickly be taken from you. As a junior, Alyssa appeared to have all of the skills necessary to qualify for state, but illness prevented her from maintaining that level. Her recovery was slow and her contribution to the team last year was remarkable considering the circumstances. Alyssa continued to work hard out of season to regain her skills and have the opportunity to compete at state this year.”

WIAA Division 2 Southwestern Sectional
(from Friday, Feb. 26 @ Hazel Green)
Team scores — 1.Mount Horeb 134.95, 2.Platteville/Belmont/Lancaster 128.8255, 3.Southwestern/Cuba City 127.15, 4.Jefferson 126.30, 5.Milton 122.175, 6.Whitewater 120.55, 7.Monona Grove 119.7, 8.Elkhorn 114.625.
individual state qualifiers
All-around — 5.Grace Hammermeister 33.525.
Balance Beam — 2.Hammermeister 8.9.
Floor Exercise — 1.Hammermeister 9.3.
Uneven bars — 5(tie).Alyssa Bainbridge 8.05.
other sectional results
All-around — 8.Bainbridge 32.575, 12(tie).Allison Stader 31.175. Balance Beam — 9.Bainbridge 8.2, 12.Stader 7.95, 14.Brooke Pagliaro 7.775, 16(tie).Maddie Rand 7.55. Floor Exercise — 12.Bainbridge 8.425, 25.Pagliaro 7.9, 26.Stader 7.85, 33.Lindsey Wolf 7.15. Uneven bars — 12(tie).Stader 7.75, 18(tie).Maddie Rand 7.425, 21.Mikayla Vincent 7.350, 23.Hammermeister 7.125. Vault — 12(tie).Hammermesiter 8.2, 16(tie).Rand 8.1, 25.Bainbridge 7.9, 29(tie).Pagliaro 7.75, 35.Stader 7.625.