The 2017-2018 Rhinelander High School gymnastic team once again faced their challenges for the season but pushed through to regain the Great Northern Conference Small Division title and finished the year strong at sectionals and even sent two gymnasts onto WIAA State. Here is a look back at injuries that plagued the team, their journey back to being on top in the GNC Small, conference leaders, post season performances, and what to look forward to next season. Injuries
Just like in previous years, the Hodags suffered several injuries that plagued the team throughout the season. Luckily this season, the illness and injuries suffered did not hold the team back. Throughout the season, Rhinelander competed in several meets without three of their top gymnasts; Stephanie Kuester, Makayla Kuester, and Raven Sturtevant.
Not only did the Hodags lose a few of their top veteran gymnasts, they also lost freshman Bridget Koser in the second-half of their season. Koser suffered a shoulder injury at practice just before the GNC meet, which ended her 2017-2018 season.
Even with the season challenges, the Hodags had good depth including a larger freshman class to help push through. Along with Koser, RHS also had fellow freshmen Lilli Bishop and Autumn Shafer helped fill in the varsity lineup. And senior Alyssa Mitchell was back in action and finished her senior season strong on the balance beam, after suffering an injury a season ago. RHS also pushed through with the contribution of Mikayla Evenstad, Emily Radke, and Harlie Zimmermann.
GNC Small Title
Rhinelander was able to regain the Great Northern Conference Small Division Title with a perfect 4-0 conference dual record. The Hodags also had the top conference tournament score in the small division with 119.300 points and would finish with 16 conference points. RHS entered the GNC tournament and needed to place third or better to earn back the crown, and they did just that. Rhinelander won the title outright and defeated Mosinee by 5.825 points.
Mosinee, Medford, and Chequamegon each went 2-2 but the Indians held an edge in the GNC tournament and finished second overall and would end with 10 conference points. It also marked the Hodags’ second GNC Small title in the past three seasons.
Rhinelander had five gymnasts make the GNC leader board were led by both Stephanie Kuester and Sturtevant. Stephanie Kuester earned first in the GNC Small all-around with 32.825 points while teammate Sturtevant was third in the all-around at 31.450 points.
Stephanie Kuester had the top score on the floor exercise (8.400) and the bars (7.875) and finished third on the beam (8.275) and the vault (8.600). While Sturtevant earned runner-up on the floor (8.175) and the bars (7.650).
After Stephanie Kuester and Sturtevant, Rhinelander had two additional gymnasts crack the top-five in the GNC small division. Mitchell finished fourth overall on the beam (7.900) and Makayla Kuester tied for fourth on the vault (8.250).
The Hodags finished their best for last this season and would earn their season-high team total of 121.9 points at the WIAA Sectionals, which proved to be only 5.5 points away from Antigo and the last team to qualify state.
The teams' top event of the night proved to be on the floor exercise where four Hodags finished with personal bests. Stephanie Kuester and Sturtevant each also just barely missed qualifying for the all-around but finished with their lifetime best scores. Kuester scored a 32.975 and Sturtevant finished with a 32.4 and both advanced to state in one individual event.
Stephanie Kuester who charted an 8.8 on the floor was able to earn her ticket the WIAA State meet in Wisconsin Rapids. Teammate Sturtevant finished with an 8.05 on the uneven bars and also qualified for state.
Sturtevant and Kuester were able to break a four-year streak of not sending a Hodag gymnasts to state. Kuester finished state with an 8.1 on the floor while Sturtevant would finish with a 6.7 on the uneven bars. Looking Ahead
Although the Hodags will lose three of their top gymnasts to graduation; the Kuesters and Mitchell they return Sturtevant who made an appearance at state and will likely lead the way. The Hodags also will seek several underclassmen to fill the vital voids the three seniors will leave. Rhinelander will also look to push and stay at the top of the GNC Small Division to claim their third title in the past four seasons.
Although the Rhinelander High School gymnastic team did not qualify as a team to compete in the 2018 WIAA Division 2 State Tournament, they had two individuals qualify and compete over the weekend. Senior Stephanie Kuester and junior Raven Sturtevant of the Hodags both competed on Saturday at state held in Wisconsin Rapids.
Both Rhinelander gymnasts finished at the back of the pack, but was success that the two were the only members of the team to qualify for a position. Kuester finished 24th out of 25 competitors on the floor exercise with a score of an 8.1 in the three-judge panel. While Sturtevant finished last out 26 gymnasts on the uneven bars with a score of 6.7.
It also marked Sturevant and Kuesters' first trip to state. Both scores of Kuester and Sturtevant in their events were off from their sectional scores at Antigo. In the GNC meet Kuester scored an 8.4 on the floor for first in the GNC Small division and Sturtevant scored a 7.650 for second in the GNC small.
Senior Samantha Krueger of River Falls earned the WIAA Division 2 all-around title with a score of 36.950. She was also the lone all-around gymnasts to score about a 36. Freshman runner-up Addie Gallun of Whitefish Bay charted a 35.867. Two GNC Large division schools also had gymnasts compete for the all-round; Isabelle Seeger of Ashland (18th) and Emma Jansen of Antigo (19th). Kuester actually beat both Seeger's and Jansen's state all-around scores in the GNC meet earlier this season.
Rhinelander will lose three seniors next season due to graduation; Stephanie Kuester, Makayla Kuester, and Alyssa Mitchell. Sturtevant will return to the lineup, and will look to lead the 2018-2018 RHS gymnastic team that returns several talented underclassmen along with a balance of experienced gymnasts that will push to make another appearance at the WIAA State Meet.
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