By Matthew Davis
Champlin Park gymnastics coach Jon Wynia had this day coming for a long time – section title and trip to state.
“A lot of great teams and athletes have been through here and didn’t do this,” Wynia said. “It’s an awesome achievement.”
In his 17th year as coach for the Rebels, his team will compete at this weekend’s state tournament for the first time. The Rebels won the Section 5AA team title on Thursday, Feb. 13 at Irondale High School.
“The last time we were in contention was when we set the school record with a 141.975,” Wynia said. “It just happened to be the year that Cambridge had their record high year and Anoka had their record high year.”
This time, the Rebels scored higher with a score of 142.725, edging Mounds View by 5.45 points. Liz Hammond and Taylor Guckeen racked up points for the Rebels with their individual state-qualifying performances.
“The captains Liz and Taylor leading have really brought the team together,” Wynia said.
Guckeen took second on floor at 9.575, tied with Mounds View’s Anna House, and the Rebels sophomore took third on the beam at 9.5 and third in the all-around at 37.125.
“I was really happy with my beam routine because I always get the most nervous for beam, so it always feels good to hit it,” Guckeen said.
She took 12th in beam last season at the state meet. Her experience of state could help the Rebels on Friday and Saturday’s state meet at the University of Minnesota.
“We just can’t get too nervous about and just go into it without getting to nervous and just have fun with it,” Guckeen said.
Hammond’s victory in the vault and taking second on the bars helped the Rebels punch their ticket to the U. She scored 9.4 on the vault and 9.125 on the bars. She also qualified for state in the all-around at 37.05 for fourth place.
“It’s a really big accomplishment for us that Champlin’s really never done before,” Hammond said.
Guckeen and teammate Amanda Cunninghman both finished strong on bars in a fourth-place tie at 8.8. Cunningham had been in and out of gymnastics over the past few years due to injury, but her performance helped seal the section title.
“Once we all hit, we had a good idea that we probably won, and we did, so it was really exciting,” Guckeen said.
Rebels gymnasts that place below the state qualifying marks also played a big role garnering enough points for the win. Emma Perkins and Kayla Uzzell made it four Rebels in the top 10 on the vault at 10th and 7th respectively.
“Kayla Uzzell and Emma Perkins had been working flipping those vaults, so that was a big jump in our vault score,” Wynia said. “The nines in those vaults were awesome.”
Uzzell is the lone senior on this young Rebels team. With one section title under their belts, the future looks bright.
“Hopefully we’ll start a little tradition here,” Wynia said.