gymnastics

Faribault junior Lauren McDonough, left, and senior Chloe Duchene, right, both compete Friday on the balance beam at the Class A state championships. It’s Duchene’s first trip to the state championships and McDonough’s third in a row. (Michael Hughes/southernminn.com)

As the final session of the Section 2A gymnastics meet continued Friday, March 19, senior Chloe Duchene’s phone started blowing up.

Duchene and the rest of the Faribault gymnastics team competed in the first of three competition pods in New Prague, and after returning to Faribault, she was happy enough to sit back and relax knowing she wrapped up her high school gymnastics career on a high note.

Then came a phone call from senior Alexis Bottke. Then text messages from assistant coach Larissa Rasmussen and head coach Holly Olmscheid.

They all spent the night frantically refreshing the online results and slowly came to the realization that Duchene had nabbed the final state qualification spot for the Class A state championships on the balance beam, while junior Lauren McDonough had also secured the second of the three spots on the balance beam after the scores from the three all-around qualifiers were removed from the equation.

“I actually didn’t think I was going to make it to state, so I wasn’t too worried about it,” Duchene said. “I thought I just had a good meet.

“Lexi called me and then (Holly) texted me and then Larissa texted me, and I was just like, ‘How?’”

McDonough was on the opposite end of the spectrum. She spent the night smashing the refresh button along with her coaches, trying to do the mental math of how many more gymnasts from the final session she needed to finish above to seal her third trip to state on the balance beam.

“I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but then I checked after the first rotation of the third session and I was in second,” McDonough said. “Then I was like, ‘OK, there are 10 more girls and four of them can get better than me.’ That was really nerve racking.”

McDonough said her score of 8.625 on beam at the section meet was far from her best performance this season, primarily due to an early fall off the beam.

“I normally don’t talk to myself that much in my beam routine because I try to not focus on anything since that makes me more nervous,” McDonough said. “After I fell I was really disappointed because it happened faster than I could even think about it, and then I was actively telling myself, ‘This has to be the best beam routine you’ve ever done.’ That was a rollercoaster of a day.”

Moving into the state championships, McDonough will not have a wealth of experience to fall back on, despite this being her third trip state. As a freshman, McDonough competed at the University of Minnesota. As a sophomore, the state meet shifted the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul.

This year, the event is staged at Champlin Park High School, and with a new format. Instead of the team competition and individual portion on different days, they’re both squeezed into the same day this year, with four sections competing in the afternoon and the other four in the evening.

It’s the first time McDonough has a teammate alongside her at the state meet, and is also the first time she won’t need to wait around for at least five rotations after the meet started to compete. Section 1 is slated to compete on beam during the first rotation of the evening session.

“In both previous years, Lauren went to state for beam, we warmed up and then it was like the fourth or fifth rotation that we had beam,” Olmscheid said. “It was so close to the end that we had been sitting for like two and a half hours.”

“I just had to think about what was going to happen the whole time,” McDonough said. “I automatically stressed myself out over it.”

This year, both McDonough and Duchene said they’re viewing competing at state as a bonus after both left New Prague last week with the acceptance their seasons were over.

“I’m not going to stress it too much,” Duchene said. “It’s my last year, so I just want to have a good time and just go for it.”

“I’m just going into it grateful I have another meet, because I didn’t really think I had a chance,” McDonough said. “I’m just going to try and enjoy it and have fun, because I never really get to do that on beam during meets.”

Reach Regional Sports Editor Michael Hughes at 645-1106 or follow him on Twitter @APGSoMnHughes. © Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Sports Editor for the Northfield News. Also a California native looking for tips on surviving the winter and an Indiana University grad on the quest for a good breaded pork tenderloin.

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