Rhinelander gymnastics is back. Set to return following a year where they clinched a conference title and produced a state qualifier, the Hodags return several key upperclassmen in hand with a slew of talented younger athletes to once again establish dominance.
Last season, the Hodags went 4-0 in the Great Northern Conference’s Small Division triangulars, dominating their division in nearly every event. Senior Elle Spiegelhoff was named to the first team Small All Conference team in Beam (8.700), Floor (8.450), Bars (8.275) and All Around (33.475), and also added a second team finish in Vault (8.050), while the returning duo of Megan Thornton and Sara Krueger took second team honors on Beam (7.925) and Floor (7.950), respectively.
This young Hodag team will be looking toward these three experienced gymnasts to lead the group toward the upper echelon of the division.
Coach Jen Pooch is happy with last year’s accomplishments, but she is ready to put in the time and effort to ensure her girls have another shot at GNC glory.
“We are a young team, but we want to be conference champions again,” explained Pooch. “That shouldn’t be out of our reach, so that is one of our main goals. Our other goal is to get a few more athletes to qualify for state this year. Last year we had Elle, and this year we look to have a few different girls. Basically we want to see these things and continue to improve on our team scores as the year goes on.”
When discussing who she thinks will have a large hand in the success of this year’s squad, Coach Pooch mentioned three of the returning upperclassmen who have always put in the offseason time and showcased the dedication necessary to be successful at a sport built on details.
“Sara Krueger, Megan Thornton and Elle Spiegelhoff are the three main older girls returning for the team,” explained Pooch. “Stephanie Allen will be contributing a lot to varsity and Alyssa Ellis as well. We will also see some new girls who can be seeing some varsity time as well.”
When competing at high levels of such a detail-oriented sport as gymnastics, athletes such as Krueger, Thornton and Spiegelhoff have to focus on improving the tiniest of details. The smallest imperfections can be the difference in a whole place finish, and these are the things Coach Pooch plans on helping her returning stars iron out to ensure a season of success.
“Basically we are just trying to fine tune the skills that they do have and keep working on that,” said Pooch. “They have a few skills here and there that they have wanted to get, and we just have to focus on the little stuff before we get to the big stuff. But even the skills they have now, they can definitely make it to state. It’s just about cleaning it up and staying consistent to get to that next level.”
Looking ahead to the season, the girls are excited about their opportunities to challenge large numbers of teams at invitationals. Tournaments in places such as Ashland and Antigo give the athletes a little bigger stage to showcase their talents, and many of the gymnasts look forward to hosting the yearly Hodag Invitational.
Coach Pooch talked a little bit about what her team is most looking forward to in the coming months.
“We get really excited about all the conference meets, because those are the ones that mean the most. But other than that, we get really pumped up for the Hodag Invite. It’s fun to host eight or nine teams and fun for the girls to show up in front of their home crowd. The girls love invitationals because they can get medals, and we typically do well at the Antigo Invite. We are also looking forward to head up to the Ashland Invite as well.”
With a talented roster and last season’s momentum, the Hodag gymnasts have the potential to soar to all new heights. Stay posted with all the gymnastic action on Hodagsports.com.