December 14, 2011 | 07:44 AMBURLINGTON — Last year, the Burlington/Badger/Wilmot (BBW) gymnastics squad, nearly pulled it off.
With one event to go, the Demons saw their two-point lead over Franklin evaporate at the state tournament, and BBW settled for second place by less than a point.
While second is nothing to scoff at, coach Diane Biedrzycki's ultimate goal is a state title. And this year, the team should be right back at the top.
"All of our girls have competed at state the last two years," she said. "We were second last year and third in 2009. Logically, we should go up a place."
Thanks to an influx of new talent, Biedrzycki's prediction doesn't seem far-fetched.
Badger senior Krystal Cooke, an all-conference performer a year ago, has decided not to come out for the team this season. But three freshmen are hoping to fill Cooke's big shoes.
Burlington sisters Jenna and Bailey Fitzpatrick, along with Burlington freshman Molly Benavides, are performing well beyond their years. So far, in two Burlington victories, Bailey and Benavides have won the all-around. Jenna and Bailey were previously competing on a New Berlin club team. Also, Benavides was on the Walworth County Gymnastics Club. Add these phenoms to a crop of seven solid returning athletes, and the sky is the limit.
"We have a ton of experience and a high skill level," Biedrzycki said. "We've reloaded and then some. We are so deep, there are 15 varsity-ready girls and only five spots. And chemistry-wise, it feels right. We are really jelling."
Two Badger girls, Kerry Leonard, a senior, and Robyn Scheuerman, a sophomore, will play key roles this season. Other key performers will included Burlington's Michelle Dankle, the team captain, Alice Gordon and Lauren Otter along with Wilmot's Marlee Brunow and Meghan Jarnigo.
But the injury bug has already hit the team. Otter broke her foot and will miss half the season. Also, Dankle is healthy, but she underwent ankle surgery in the offseason. Finally, Jenna Fitzpatrick is recovering from a broken foot.
"Staying healthy is a concern," Biedrzycki said. "We will have to switch lineups."
Other girls who could make an impact are Badger sophomore Ciara Johnson and Burlington's Aubrey Weinhammer.
A great start
The motivation is there. Each girl made a goal sheet at the beginning of the season. The first one is to remain undefeated until Christmas. So far, so good.
BBW remained perfect so far with a win at the Emerald Invite in Waterford Saturday.
The girls recorded a season-high 143.8 in the win.
"It wasn't a real strong day," Biedrzycki said. "We had a lot of falls. We got better as the meet went on."
Franklin, the defending state champion, took second with a 139.8.
Bailey Fitzpatrick won the all-around with a score of 36.45. She also won the floor event with a 9.45. Benavides took first in the vault with a 9.65, one of the state's highest marks so far.
Jenna Fitzpatrick won the bars with a 9.625. On the beam, Weinhammer, who usually competes for junior varsity, placed sixth on varsity with an 8.82.
Burlington crushed Elkhorn last Tuesday, 141.325-108.225. Benavides won the all-around with a 36.55, followed by Bailey Fitzpatrick (35.125) and Dankle (34.35). Scheuerman placed second in the vault (9.325) and had an 8.15 on the floor. Benavides won the vault (9.575) and beam (9.15).
"We improved from our first meet," Biedrzycki said.
On Dec. 1, Burlington defeated Mukwonago/Kettle Moraine/East Troy, 141.2-137.625.
Bailey Fitzpatrick won the all-around with a score of 36.625.
In terms of the state, Burlington should be near the top with defending champion Franklin.
"We have a great group that could do big things," Biedrzycki said.
BBW will host Waterford Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Burlington. Then, BBW battles in a tough triangular at Arrowhead against Arrowhead and Franklin. However, the Demons will welcome back Gordon and Leonard from injury this week
"We need less falls on the beam," Biedrzycki said. "We must correct the little things."