Just prior to the post-meet ceremony Saturday, Middleton gymnastics coach Kari Steck and Sun Prairie coach Shannon Maly stood next to the awards podium and hugged, offering congratulations to each other.
The results were minutes away, but Steck and Maly knew their teams had secured trips to the WIAA state meet, and shared an emotional moment. For Middleton, another state visit was to be celebrated. For Sun Prairie, the long wait finally was over.
Middleton totaled a season-high 140.725 points in winning the WIAA Division 1 sectional at Madison Memorial and qualifying for the state meet — Friday and Saturday in Wisconsin Rapids — for the seventh consecutive season, 11th time in 12 years and 22nd time overall. Middleton had confidence on its side after claiming last week’s Big Eight Conference meet.
“I think winning conference was a big boost for the girls and really prepared them for this,” Steck said.
Big Eight meet runner-up Sun Prairie compiled a season-best 139.925 points and earned the second state berth, the program’s fourth overall and first since 1991. Sun Prairie returned to the area sectional this season following three consecutive years when it was Big Eight champion but didn’t advance to state while competing in sectionals against powerful Milwaukee-area schools.
“This team has worked so hard the last four years and it’s about time they get to go,” an emotional Maly said, adding: “Today we really took to heart what the judges said at the conference meet. We worked on leaning things up and staying tight, and it paid off.
“Middleton is a phenomenal team, too. To have two teams eighth-tenths of a point apart is outstanding. … I’m just so excited with everything they’ve accomplished and done this year. They deserved it.”
The top five individuals (plus ties for fifth) in each event and the all-around also qualified for state. Tyra Turner, a senior at Madison La Follette who competes for the Madison East/La Follette team, was the all-around champion with 36.80 points, edging her friend and Sun Prairie senior Allayah Lane, who was second (36.175). Senior Natalie Donkle finished third in the all-around (35.725) for Madison Memorial, third among eight teams with 135.20 points.
“I was very happy with this,” Turner said. “I made some changes going into this meet and it paid off. I added harder things and it worked out.”
Turner won the vaulting title with a personal-best 9.525, had a season-high score while winning the uneven bars (9.150) and was second on the floor exercise (9.450), an event in which she added a new jump.
“I was trying not to put pressure on myself in this meet,” Turner said. “I was like, ‘Hey, relax. Do your thing. You can do it.’ I didn’t really expect this much. I’m very excited about it. Next week, I’m going to hold myself to high expectations. Whatever happens, happens, I guess.”
The other event winners were Middleton juniors Jordan Baggot and Karina Sabol. Baggot claimed the balance beam crown with a personal-best 9.425 score, leading Middleton to its best beam score of the season, Steck said. Baggot also finished fifth in the all-around (35.475) and in vaulting (8.875).
“Jordan is a huge leader on the team,” Steck said. “She leads by example and I think her getting up there (on beam) and having a perfect routine set the bar for everyone, else, too. … That’s the best routine she’s ever done.”
Sabol won the floor (9.525) and finished second in vaulting (9.40) and on the balance beam (9.225).
Lane finished third in vaulting (9.150) and balance beam (9.20) and fourth on the floor (9.375) for Sun Prairie, which had a season-high on bars, Maly said. Sun Prairie sophomore Amelia McDermott was fourth in vaulting (8.90) and fifth on floor (9.150).
Donkle was second on the uneven bars (9.075) and fourth on balance beam (9.10). Caylee Powers, a sophomore for fourth-place Waunakee/DeForest, placed third on bars (8.90).
Madison West junior Alex DeAngeles was fifth on bars (8.675). Regents junior Lucia Durst and Middleton senior Chloe Young tied for fifth on beam (9.075).