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Area Female Athlete: Little Falls LeBlanc tumbling toward success

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Rachelle LeBlanc doesn’t care about winning now.

She admits winning is good for her confidence, but the Little Falls Flyers junior gymnast said winning isn’t what she’s worried about. At least not yet.

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Still the varsity veteran has won her fair share of events.

She captured first place in the all-around in duals against Alexandria, Maple Lake and Brainerd recently posting season best scores in the process. Those scores drive LeBlanc.

“I strive for my scores way more than I do winning,” said LeBlanc. “If I hit a high score and I don’t win, I couldn’t care less. Winning is definitely nice and it pushes you because it says you’re pretty good compared to the other gymnasts. It also says I have a chance at state, but it’s the score that matters.”

A chance at state is what LeBlanc is after. Her goal is to medal. She finished ninth in last year’s Class 1A state meet with a 36.725 all-around score.

“She wants to be on that podium,” said Flyers co-head coach and Rachelle’s mother Shelly LeBlanc. “She wants to medal.”

At state, LeBlanc scored a 9.25 on vault a 9.05 on bars, a 9.3 on beam and a 9.125 on floor. Her season bests have surpassed those marks.

She scored a 9.325 on vault, a 9.6 on beam and a 37.325 in the all-around against Alexandria Jan. 29. Against Maple Lake, she scored a 9.3 on bars. Her best floor score was a 9.6 against Becker.

Her all-around score of 37.325 matched her season best last year, which came in the Section 8-1A tournament.

“I didn’t think it was going to happen,” said LeBlanc. “They’ve been scoring extremely hard and kind of low this year. Getting that score was a relief and made me want to push harder. But I was so happy when I finally got it. That was my main goal to get where I was last year. Now that I got that I can really move on.”

Moving on means increasing the degree of difficulty in her routines. For Shelly LeBlanc the mother — that’s worrisome. For the coach, let’s just say she’s glad she has co-head coach Kent Gomez to help.

“As a mother I’m fine with just what she’s doing now,” said Shelly LeBlanc. “As her coach I know if she sees something she wants to do that’s what she’s going to do. It rarely comes from me or Kent. It comes from her. She sees something on YouTube or from another competitor and she wants to try it. When it comes to her beam routine, I pretty much have to leave the gym. She’s just very driven and she knows what she wants to do.”

Mother and daughter don’t always agree. When that happens: enter Gomez.

“It’s really nice having him there because sometimes and we actually just dealt with this in practice, my mother and I don’t agree,” said Rachelle. “Recently I wanted to try a scary trick. Well, Kent knows my mom is the safety factor so he spotted me through this one trick and I did it with him and then he just walked away. He simply said you can do it and he just walked away. That started a fire in me that I could do it. He knows how to push my buttons the right way to give me confidence in myself.”

LeBlanc said she’s included much harder tricks into her routines and continues to add more difficulty as the Flyers near the Granite Ridge Conference and the section tournament. She said if she’s not doing the tricks she wants cleanly by the time of the conference meet she won’t do them at sections, but if she makes it to state watch out.

“If I make it to state and I work on them in the gym, I might try and throw them at state,” she said. “I know if I’m going to do well at state I’m going to have to throw these kinds of tricks so that’s where I’m headed.”

Other notable performances:

Basketball: Cassie Sandberg, Aitkin, finished with 20 points against Pine City.

Jamie Jenks, Little Falls, finished with 27 points and eight rebounds against Zimmerman and 21 points against Princeton.

Katelyn Peterson, Pillager, finished with 21 points against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.

Lacy Hiltner, Pillager, finished with 26 points against Menahga.

Gymnastics: Rachelle LeBlanc, Little Falls, won the bars and beam leading to a first-place all-around score of 37.325 against Alexandria and won all four events leading to a first-place 37.25 all-around against Maple Lake.

JEREMY MILLSOP, sports writer, may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

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Jermey Millsop
My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.
(218) 855-5856
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