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Gymnastics: One last hurrah for NLS seniors

Feb. 23—ST. PAUL — Myah Johnson shined bright in the final meet of her career as she helped the New London-Spicer gymnastics team finish in fifth place at the Class A state team meet on Friday.

The senior gymnast had a career day and the Wildcats totaled 140.850 points in their fourth consecutive appearance at the state meet. Becker won the state title with 143.575, followed by Watertown-Mayer/Mound-Westonka's 142.250 and Mankato West's 142.150.

Although the Wildcats were aiming for a top-three finish, NLS improved three places from the state meet a season ago, where it scored 138.900 and finished eighth.

"I'm proud of us," Johnson said. "We fought as hard as we could. This entire season has been really good. Even though we were shooting high, it really doesn't matter. It was just fun.

"We made it here. That's all that really matters."

When the Wildcats made the state meet in 2023, Johnson remained home sidelined with a torn ACL and meniscus. At that time, she thought she would never compete for NLS again. She admitted that watching the team through social media and being away from the team was "sad."

Fast forward to Johnson's senior season. NLS head coach Cindy Jacobson penciled her in for the bars and beam lineups for the Wildcats. Johnson arrived at Roy Wilkins Auditorium with a sense of appreciation for what was ahead given the journey she had leading into the meet.

"It makes me appreciate gymnastics, teammates and even practices so much more," Johnson said. "When it was all ripped away and I didn't think I was gonna be able to come back for my senior year, being able to even get this far, it was amazing. ... I'm just really proud."

Johnson, who felt scared for the meet, started it off with an 8.175 on bars. She then scored a career-best 9.100 on the balance beam, an event where she had never eclipsed above a 9.000 previously.

"I was just like, 'There's literally no reason to stress,'" Johnson said, "'This is your last time you ever get to show off your choreography, your skills.'"

Her meet was planned to be done after beam, but with the way Johnson was performing, Jacobson subbed her into the Wildcats' vault lineup, an event she had not competed in all season. She only practiced on vault for about a week and a half leading up to state.

Yet, Johnson continued to provide a spark. She earned a 9.000 in her final vault.

"I'm gonna end it with a bang," Johnson said of her mindset leading into her vault. "I did not think I was ever gonna be able to do this skill again.

"It was just a great meet. There was no way I would've rather ended it at all."

NLS' lowest two events scores were the first two it competed: bars and beam. The Wildcats totaled 33.325 on bars and 34.700 on beam.

The bars team saw an unexpected fall from one its stars in junior Abby Knudsen and the beam team saw more falls from Knudsen and another fall from another star in senior Ciera Anderson.

Knudsen got back on track in her all-around in the second half of the meet, scoring matching 9.300s on floor and vault. That helped NLS total 36.875 on floor and 35.950 on vault.

Anderson had a strong outing for the Wildcats despite her fall on beam. She was second overall on bars, recording a 9.300. She also had a 9.325 on floor, 9.175 on vault and rounded out her all-around with an 8.100 on beam.

"(Abby and Ciera) had a hiccup and they haven't had any kind of hiccups all year and it's OK," Jacobson said. "I wanted them to know that it's OK. They've been hitting and sometimes this happens.

"I guarantee you, you'll see different girls tomorrow. ... I think they felt they let the team down and they didn't by all means."

The Wildcats have four individuals competing in Saturday's Class A individual meet, which begins at 11 a.m. back at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Those four are Anderson and Knudsen, who are competing all-around, junior Kaitlyn Preheim and senior Kaisa Williams.

Preheim and Williams are both competing on bars for NLS. Preheim will also be competing on beam and floor. At Friday's state team meet, Preheim tied for fifth place on beam, scoring 9.200.