State Gymnastics: Flyers LeBlanc a top contender
Coming off a school-record performance, Rachelle LeBlanc is poised to make noise at state.
The Little Falls junior gymnast won the Section 8-1A all-around Feb. 16 with a school-record 38.05 to advance to her third state competition, which is 11 a.m. Saturday at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.
She won the floor and beam with scores of 9.6 and finished second on vault and bars with scores of 9.425 to advance to her third state individual competition.
“It’s just another meet,” said LeBlanc about approaching another state meet. “Obviously, the excitement is a lot more and the adrenaline is crazy. But it’s just another meet and I have to treat it like that. If you go too hard for some tricks you might miss. You just have to be normal.”
LeBlanc’s goals are to have a great floor routine, which she has failed to do at state so far. She’s hoping for top 5 finishes on floor, beam and the all-around. LeBlanc, who also won the Great River Conference title, added new, more difficult tricks into her routines to boost her score for sections. The gamble paid off and now she’s more confident heading into this year’s state meet.
“I’m a little nervous, but I know practice was good this week,” she said. “I just have to go do my job like I did at sections. I know I can pull it off. Winning sections was definitely a confidence booster. I know at state there will be a lot of hard competition, but I’m really glad I got those tricks down at sections. I know I can complete them now with confidence.”
Last year, LeBlanc finished 21st on vault with a 9.25, 21st on floor with a 9.125, fifth on beam with a 9.3 for an eight-place all-around score of 36.725.
As a freshman, LeBlanc finished 19th on floor with a 9.075.
Fourteen of 30 event medal-winners will return to the Class 1A individual competition.
Defending champion Sela Fadness of Austin is one of two returning qualifiers in floor exercise. Austin’s Abby Bickler, who placed fourth, is the other.
Melrose’s Jailyn Brinkman is the top returner in uneven bars. She placed second last year. Fadness, Big Lake’s Courtney Jensen and Christine Simon of New Prague also return from top six finishes last year.
On balance beam, New Prague’s Sarah Hoffman is the top returner. She placed second in front of Martin County’s Rebecca Steen in fourth and LeBlanc.
Fadness and Lydia Butkowski of Melrose are the only two medalists returning in vault. Fadness placed third and Butkowski was sixth.
Fadness, Butkowski and Brinkman are the top returning all-arounders.