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Gymnastics: East Ridge wins section title

The Raptors celebrate after learning they have won the section gymnastics meet and with it a return to the state championships next weekend. (Photo by John Molene)

All the gymnasts smiled and kicked in the traditional dance around that follows the section meet.

But the East Ridge gymnasts jumped a little higher, danced a little larger and smiled a lot more than most. They already knew they had won the team event in the Class 2A, Section 3 Championships at Eagan High School Friday and were headed back to state.

East Ridge head coach Chris Muras spilled the beans to the Raptors in the middle of the post-meet celebration, and the Raptors responded with abandon.

It has been a bit of a struggle for most of the season for the Raptors, who started slowly and battled injuries, other assorted difficulties and replacing stars Megan Trollen and Wren Anderson from last year's team. In the end, though, the Raptors triumphed.

East Ridge edged Rosemount for the section title, 143.425 to 143.300 with host Eagan taking third in the team race with 142.500.

East Ridge's Cassie Kahrer, Alyssa Chandler and Lexie Corcoran all qualified for state in individual events. Kahrer won the bars with a score of 9.5, qualified in the vault (third, 9.525) and finished third in the all-around with a score of 37.275.

"I'm so proud of my teammates," Kahrer said. "There's nobody I'd rather do this with. It's unbelievable. It's surreal.

"It was a rough start to the season," Kahrer added. "We weren't sure how we were going to end up. But as the season went on we just kept getting better and better, more pumped. We're just really excited about tonight. We're so like unbelievable happy about the results."

Chandler qualified on the beam (third overall, 9.3) while Corcoran made it to state in the floor (fourth, 9.475).

"I don't even know what to say — there are no words," said Chandler, who came all the way back from a broken foot this season. "I'm just really glad that I could spend this time with my amazing teammates. This is such a good season. I'm really proud of what we did today."

The Raptors had three gymnasts in the top-10 in the all-around (Kahrer, third), Corcoran (sixth, 35.075) and Hannah Walker (ninth, 34.725).

"It's just like a really good feeling after working really, really hard in the gym," Corcoran said. "It was kind of a rocky start (to the season), but we've come a really long ways, it's really fun. It feels really good."

The top four individuals and winning team advance to the state meet which will be held Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25 at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. Friday is the team championships with the Class AA meet starting at 6 p.m. Saturday is the individual and all-around championships, also starting at 6 p.m.

"Cassie making vault and bars and then also all-around," said Muras. "She had the meet of her life today. She had a fall on beam, and then she moved on from that and went and hit floor, hit bars, hit vault. She had a great meet. I couldn't ask for anything better. It will be great to see these girls competing at state individually and as a team."

Eastview was fourth in the team race with 137.225, followed by Park (133.625), Henry Sibley (132.100), Woodbury (129.550), Apple Valley (129.050) and Cretin-Derham Hall (83.550).

It was a decisive edge on the balance beam which lifted the Raptors to the title. East Ridge won the event with a score of 35.425 to 34.250 for Rosemount and 34.9 for Eagan. As a team, the Raptors finished first in the vault and beam, second on the floor and third on the bars.

"We battled injuries all year, and there were some girls who came back," Muras said. "We had lots of errors today, lots of errors, and other team did too. We came back, and we prevailed, and it was good. It was great to see the girls just focus on one event at a time."

Mandy Hafner led Park. She was sixth in the vault (9.275) and finished 11th in the all-around with a score of 34.150.

Woodbury's Haley Lind was ninth on the bars (8.625).

Josey Schlie of Rosemount won the all-around with a score of 38.025 followed by Sophie Redding of Henry Sibley with a 37.8.

Area Top-10 Finishers

Vault — 3. Cassie Kahrer, ER, 9.525; 6. Mandy Hafner, Park, 9.275; 8. Hannah Walker, ER, 9.2; 9. Alexis Wallen, ER, 9.1

Bars — 1. Kahrer, 9.5; 7. Rachel Williamson, Park, 8.7; 8. Lexie Corcoran, ER, 8.650; 9. Haley Lind, Woodbury, 8.625

Beam — 3. Alyssa Chandler, ER, 9.3; 7. Walker, ER, 8.9; 10. Alena Abrahamson, Park, 8.750

Floor — 4. Corcoran, ER, 9.475; 5. Kahrer, ER, 9.450

All-around — 3. Kahrer, ER, 37.275; 6. Cocoran, ER, 35.075; 9. Walker, ER, 34.725