SPASH Gymnastics finishes season with another trip to state
With only two returnees back from last year, the Stevens
Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) gymnastics team advanced to the WIAA
Division 1 Team State Meet this season for the ninth time in 10 years.
The Panthers won the Eau Claire Memorial Sectional Title
Saturday, Feb. 27, to advance to state as a team, while sophomore Olivia
Clemens and senior Lacie Ligman both qualified for the Individual State Meet.
Last weekend, SPASH finished ninth at the WIAA Division 1
Team State Meet at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School Friday, March 4, while
Clemens was 18th and Ligman finished 19th in the all-around competition at the
Individual State Meet Saturday, March 5.
“This was our team goal, to make it to state,” said SPASH
gymnastics head coach Jennifer Bellmer. “And I knew it was going to be a tough
one to reach this year, just with mostly having all new people, who didn’t
really know how I work as a coach or our philosophy.
“But the kids really came together, and really helped each
other come together to reach that same goal,” she said. “And because we reached
our goal, it was very satisfying to be able to go to the State Meet and show
people that we really deserved to be there, despite the fact that we’re a young
With only Clemens and Ligman back from last year’s varsity
squad that finished eighth at the Team State Meet, the Panthers entered this
season with a group of sophomores and freshmen looking to step into the lineup.
“It was a little bit of a challenge, but it was also super
fun,” said Ligman. “They’re such sweet girls, and we’re so close, and I think
that’s partly because there’s only two returners.
“So we all came together,” she said. “And all of these girls
improved so much.”
“We started off with a score of 123, which is pretty low,”
said Clemens. “And after meets in Oconomowoc and Madison, we placed higher than
we expected, and it really boosted our confidence.”
The Panthers entered the eight-team Sectional at Eau Claire
Memorial Feb. 27, looking to finish in the Top Two in the team standings to
advance to state.
SPASH finished with the top score in the balance beam
(34.825), and then came in third in the floor exercise (35.575), fourth in
vaulting (35) and second in the uneven bars (32.1).
When the team scores were announced, the Panthers had a
total of 137.5, as they finished first over Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau (135.825),
Eau Claire Memorial/North (135.1) and Hudson
(130.875) to win the Sectional Title and advance to the Team State Meet.
“We knew that it was close, and we weren’t sure,” said
Clemens. “And after we heard third place called, we knew that we were going.”
“We knew it was going to be real dicey between three or four
of the teams, so we were just hoping to do our team best, score-wise,” said
Bellmer. “And everyone just came to play that day, and we really held it
In the all-around competition, Clemens (35.95) finished in
second place at the Sectional and Ligman (34.525) was fourth, as both also qualified
for the Individual State Meet last Saturday.
“Competing with these girls all season, and to be able to
take them to state is a dream come true,” said Ligman. “And going there
individually is awesome.
“We do have a lot of tough competition in our Sectional, and
it’s always been that way,” she said. “And pulling through, it just felt really
“Last year I was close to making it, but I wasn’t able to,”
said Clemens. “And after hearing that we had won, and that me and Lacie had
made it as an individual, we were almost in tears, because everyone was just so
State, the Panthers
were eighth in the balance beam (33.483), as Ligman had a 8.75 to lead the
team, followed by freshman Renee Hinchcliffe (8.467), Clemens (8.333), freshmen
Gabby Johnson (7.933) and sophomore Kara Battaglia (7.267).
SPASH came in seventh in the floor exercise (33.733), as
Ligman (8.833) led the team, followed by Clemens (8.733), Battaglia (8.217),
Hinchcliffe (7.95) and Johnson (7.033).
The Panthers were 10th in the uneven bars (31.833), behind
Clemens (8.667), Hinchcliffe (7.767), freshman Brianna Behne (7.75), Ligman
(7.65) and freshman Ashley Powell (7.533); while the team also finished 10th in
vaulting (35.033), led by Clemens (8.817), Hinchcliffe (8.8), Ligman (8.783),
Battaglia (8.633) and Johnson (8.567).
That left the Panthers with a final team score of 134.0833,
as they finished ninth in the standings, while Franklin/Mukwonago/Oak
Creek/Whitnall (149.3167) won the State Title over Kenosha Bradford/Indian
Trail/Tremper (147.6), Hartland Arrowhead (144.2667), Brookfield East/Central
(143.8667) and Grafton/Cedarburg (137.8667).
“I was really proud of the team,” said Bellmer. “It gets a
little intimidating, seeing some of those top teams from the Milwaukee area, but we prepared a lot
mentally going into it, so we knew kind of what to expect.
“So I was really proud of their performance, because they
were really poised and really looked their best,” she said. “And you really
couldn’t tell from the sidelines that they were very nervous.”
At the Individual State Meet Saturday, Clemens (8.05) and
Ligman (8.05) tied for 21st in the balance beam, while Ligman finished 14th
(8.9) in the floor exercise and Clemens was 20th (8.5).
Clemens finished 17th in the uneven bars (8.483) and 22nd in
vaulting (9.0), while Ligman didn’t qualify for either event at the Sectional
but still participated as part of the all-around competition, and finished with
an 8.05 in the uneven bars and 8.917 in vaulting.
In the final all-around standings, Clemens was 18th (34.033)
and Ligman finished 19th (33.917), while junior Molly O’Boyle of Kenosha
(38.167) beat junior Caitlin Locante of Brookfield (37.35) and senior Lauren
Reese of Mukwonago (37.267) for the State Title.
“They’re our two team captains, so it was really meaningful
that they got to go,” said Bellmer. “Olivia had probably one of the best bar
routines that she’s had in a really long time and her vault seems to be getting
better and better, so we’re just really thrilled with the progress that she’s
been making. She’s only a sophomore, so she’s only going to get better, and
this experience is just going to propel her into next year.
“And Lacie is our senior, so it was just really special and
exciting to see her out there on the floor one last time, performing at her
fullest,” said Bellmer. “And we still plan to keep Lacie involved in some way
or another, because she’s going to be going to school at UWSP (University of
Wisconsin-Stevens Point), and so hopefully with her knowledge and expertise,
she’ll be able to help motivate the girls in the long run too.”
Overall, Bellmer said this season was really fun, and that
she’s looking forward to seeing what the team can do in the next few years.
“I came into this year thinking, ‘oh, it’s just going to be
a building year,’” said Bellmer. “‘We’re going to gain some more skills,’
because we really didn’t have the repertoire of skills to be showing off.
“But somehow we really pulled it together,” she said. “And
by the end of January, I started to think, ‘oh my goodness, it’s really coming
“It’s been very satisfying,” she said. “They all have great
attitudes, and they work hard.”