WISCONSIN RAPIDS — It was so close, they could almost feel it in their taped-up, talcum-powdered hands.
But in the end Friday evening, the Mount Horeb gymnastics team finished just off the podium — taking third place for the third consecutive year — in the team competition portion of the WIAA Division 2 state gymnastics meet at Wisconsin Rapids High School.
The Vikings recorded a score of 137.1667 in the 10-team event.
Whitefish Bay (147.7167) captured its third consecutive championship and fourth in the past five years. River Falls (140.55) earned second place for the third year in a row.
While Mount Horeb didn’t win any hardware, the Vikings earned plenty of reason for pride.
“My team left nothing behind. We put it all on the line,” Mount Horeb coach Martha Koller Faust said. “We have a lot of seniors on this team, and to see them all together at state one last time is all you can ask for.”
Finishing up on the floor exercise, the Vikings put together their top score of the day, posting a combined 35.633.
“The team really pulled through,” senior Krista Taylor said. “It’s such a great atmosphere, and competing at state really brings out the best in us.”
All four Mount Horeb seniors — Erin Dahm, Sophie Alberts, Kalista Eggers and Taylor — praised their veteran coach for giving them a chance to succeed at the highest level.
“She’s just been a phenomenal coach for us. It’s easy to do well when you have that,” Taylor said.
Koller Faust said the girls are the true reason behind the consistent success of the Vikings program, saying they inspire younger students to give the sport a try.
“It makes me extremely proud that people embrace this team in our area,” Koller Faust said. “It’s been a pleasure watching this group grow up and shine at this stage.”
Said Dahm: “It’s sad to think that this is our last time competing together, but it’s a happy moment.”
“It’s bittersweet,” said Taylor, who is set to compete today in the individual all-around competition, alongside freshman teammate Grace O’Neil.
Jefferson earned seventh (127.6 points), and Dodgeville/Mineral Point took eighth (127.2667).
A trio of Dodgeville/Mineral Point sophomores also will appear in today’s individual all-around: Elle Honerbaum, Tessa Bockhop and Miah Lemanski, who finished fifth last year. Other area athletes competing are River Valley senior Caroline Iausly, Monona Grove senior Tatem Capouch and Jefferson sophomore Kayla Gehrmann.
Said Taylor: “I’m just going to go out there and give it my all. The rest will take care of itself.”
After a 27-year hiatus, Sun Prairie returned to state as a team and delivered one of its best performances of the season.
The Cardinals finished in eighth place with a score of 136.40.
The Franklin co-op (147.8333) took home the state title for a third consecutive year. Hartland Arrowhead (144.4667) finished second.
“The girls did a phenomenal job,” Sun Prairie coach Shannon Maly said. “I just wanted them to enjoy the experience, but they performed beyond my expectations.
“I told them: ‘As soon as you walk through those doors, you’ll remember it forever.’ I think they’re now hooked on making it next year, too.”
Senior Allayah Lane said that the most important aspect of Friday’s competition was for all the girls to have fun.
“The outcome didn’t really matter,” Lane said. “But everyone came together when it counted.”
Big Eight Conference rival Middleton (136.0333) finished in ninth place after coming in fifth a year ago.
“We recovered from a tough balance beam routine on the first rotation to have a good day,” Middleton coach Kari Steck said. “The girls continued to build each other up and got a feel for this type of environment.”
Other area athletes who earned a spot in today’s all-around competition include Madison United (East/LaFollette) senior Tyra Turner, who won the Big Eight Conference all-around title; Middleton junior Jordan Baggot; and Madison Memorial junior Natalie Donkle.