After helping Melrose win its second Class 1A gymnastics team championship in the last three years, junior Lydia Butkowski admitted that the pressure of a typical state meet was noticeably lacking Friday.
“There weren’t as many fans here as there usually are because of the snow,” she said of the turnout at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. “I wasn’t as nervous because it didn’t feel like a state meet.”
Not that Melrose needed any help. The No. 1-ranked Lady Dutchmen had scored better than 149 in six consecutive meets before Friday.
So, despite an early hiccup on the balance beam, no one on the team felt worried. They proved as much, finishing with a meet-winning score of 149.575. New Prague, the 2013 team champion, was second with 149.05 and Detroit Lakes was third at 148.45.
Senior Jailyn Brinkman, Melrose’s top all-arounder, was one of the two who fell off the balance beam to open the meet. An inauspicious beginning, sure, but Brinkman wasn’t worried.
“The younger girls on this team really came up for us,” she said. “They really wanted to do good here.”
To Melrose coach Katie Masog, it was just business as usual.
“At the True Team state meet, we had two falls on the vault and came back to beat a lot of these same teams,” she said. “I knew we could shake it off.”
Melrose made up for its beam routine with back-to-back stellar efforts in the floor exercise and on the uneven bars. In the latter, Brinkman posted a team-high score of 9.8, breaking Masog’s school-record in the event.
“After I fell on the beam, I knew my next event was the floor exercise and that’s a fun event,” Brinkman said. “And uneven bars is my absolute favorite. That helped get past the beam fall.”
Brinkman and Butkowski were members of the Melrose team that won the state championship in 2012. Both said that Friday’s victory was sweeter.
“This is a lot better,” Butkowski said. “We scored better and we won even though we weren’t at our best. That shows how good this team is.”
For Brinkman, her effort came with a measure of personal satisfaction. Older sister Hailey, who was on the 2012 state championship team and won the all-around competition that year, was one of the limited number of Melrose fans able to make the drive to Minneapolis.
“We won, I got the school bars record and she was here,” Brinkman said. “I’m so excited now, it’s hard to breathe.”