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Gymnastics: Willmar's Mottinger, Johnson vault to state tournament

(Tribune photo by Rand Middleton) The top three in the Section 6A vault competition Saturday at Willmar salute the crowd after receiving their medals, first-place Haley Mottinger, center, of Willmar; runner-up Cassie Johnson, left, of Willmar, and Jailyn Brinkman, third-place, of Melrose.

WILLMAR — Cardinals freshman Hailey Mottinger and senior Cassandra Johnson placed 1-2 in the vault event to gain the Class A State Gymnastics meet.

Johnson also qualified with a third-place finish in floor exercise during the Section 6A meet on Saturday at Kennedy Elementary School.

Willmar sophomore Stephanie Thompson just missed after reaching state last year (beam); she finished in the top eight in three events and sixth in all-around.

The top four advance in each individual event, plus all-around.

Melrose will return to the state meet to defend its team title in Friday’s team completion at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. Individual competition is Saturday.

The Lady Dutchmen, led by all-around star Jailyn Brinkman, and the Bowden sisters, Briquelle and Tahilia, of Alexandria dominated the top four finishes. Alexandria placed second in team and Willmar third.

Mottinger and Johnson scored 9.45 and 9.375, respectively, each exploding off the table with a Tsuk pike. Last year, her first year of high school gymnastics after coming up through Willmar Wings, Johnson placed 17th at state on vault.

Her floor routine was dazzling. Willmar coach Larry Selchow, at his final home meet, called it quite likely one of the three best by a Cardinal in his 18 seasons.

“He double twist was so high, so exciting, she’s never got that height before,” said Selchow. “What a pleasure to watch.”

It compared favorably with the amplitude of the routines of Beth Zimmer, the Cardinals’ state champion on floor a decade ago.

Selchow said the team has tapered for the meet allowing the gymnasts to rest and rev up to full strength.

Mottinger just missed on qualifying for floor by placing fifth, .020 out of fourth. Thompson was fifth on beam with a 9.3.

Willmar also achieved the top ranking academically with a GPA of 3.899.

Willmar scored best of the nine teams on vault while Melrose led the other three events.

“We had fun today,” said Mottinger. “I’m proud of us; we brought it together to finish strong.”

Johnson commented on what made this floor routine special to her: “I’ve never hit every single pass before; I always miss something, like a step back on the double at the conference meet. I hit everything today.”

Team scoring

(1) *Melrose 147.5 (2) Alexandria 141.25 (3) Willmar 139 (4) New London-Spicer 126.050 (5) Benson/KMS 124.85 (6) Litchfield 124.85 (6) Litchfield 123.35 (7) Paynesville/Eden Valley-Watkins 119.125 (8) Morris/Chokio-Alberta 114.025 (9) Ortonville/Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 93.9

* — advances to state meet

State qualifiers…area top 12

ALL-AROUND — (1) Jailyn Brinkman, Mel, 37.925 (2) Lydia Butkowski, Mel, 37.475 (3) Briquelle Bowden, Alx, 36.975 (4) Tahilia Bowden, Alx, 36.175 … (6) Stephanie Thompson, Wil, 35.7 (9) Hailey Mottinger, Wil, 33.825 (10) Cassandra Johnson, Wil, 33.625 (11) Chantell Anderson-Otto, Litch, 33.075 (12) MiKaylia Hagen, BKMS, 31.625

VAULT — (1) Hailey Mottinger, Wil, 9.450 (2) Cassandra Johnson, Wil, 9.375 (3) Brinkman 9.3 (4) Hannah Wendel, Alx, 9.125 … (7) Thompson 9.0 (9) Haley Stahl, NLS, 8.95 (10) Hillary Weiler, Wil, 8.925 (11) Marley Virnig, Litch, 8.925

BARS — (1) Brinkman 9.625 (2) B. Bowden 9.575 (3) L. Butkowski 9.3 (4) Mady Brinkman, Mel, 9.075 … (8) Thompson, Wil, 8.5 (10) Anderson-Otto, Litch, 7.875 (11) Alexis Miley, Wil, 7.825

BEAM — (1) Butkowski 9.625 (2) Brinkman 9.4675 (3) T. Bowden 9.45 (4) Kayla Austing, Mel, 9.40 … (5) Thompson, Wil, 9.3 (9) Alexis Miley, Wil, 8.625 (10) Madison Lindblad, Wil, 8.55 (12) Anderson-Otto, Litch, 8.1

FLOOR — (1) B. Bowden 9.6 (2) J. Brinkman 9.525 (3) Johnson 9.475 (4) Butkowski 9.45 … (5) Mottinger, Wil, 9.425 (9) Miley, Wil, 9.25 (11) Thompson, W, 9.2 (12) Anderson-Otto, Litch, 8.95

Other area all-around

BENSON/KMS — Shayla Burns 29.4, Caitlin Flower 30.475

LITCHFIELD — Courtney Cruze 27.725

MORRIS/CHOKIO-ALBERTA — Paige Schieler 27.8, Kourtney Giese 29.875

NEW LONDON-SPICER — Mya Rohman 30.8

PAYNVESVILLE/EVW — Heather Arnold 31.1, Katelyn Mrozek 30.275

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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