The Rhinelander High School Gymnastic team finished runner-up in the Great Northern Conference small division this season and had several highlight moments despite not sending any gymnasts to state. The Hodags were unable to keep their GNC Small title after claiming three crowns in the past five seasons, as Medford went 3-0 and had a much improved squad led by a pair of freshman.
Rhinelander knew the Raiders would prove to be their biggest competition this season. In the Hot Cocoa Invite in Medford, the season-opening invite RHS came up short and finished runner-up in the five team event. Medford would then edge the Hodags 121.575-116.825 in a dual meet at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium in the beginning of February.
That win would give the Raiders the lead in the GNC Small Division heading in the conference tournament. Medford continued to excel and would put up their season best of 128.125 points, which was 8.25 points ahead of RHS to earn the crown. Mosinee finished third behind RHS, Chequamegon placed fourth, and Lakeland was fifth in the GNC-Small standings. The Raiders would go on to finish second and earn the final state qualifying spot at sectionals in Antigo, posting a 126.325.
Rhinelander hosted the Snowflake Invite where they finished third out of eight teams, and were the top GNC-Small school to finish. Marshfield won the invite followed by Ashland. Medford charted fourth and Antigo finished fifth. RHS charted their first dual win of the season on December 11th when they beat Chequamegon 112.825-89.25. The Hodags continued to improve on their scores and would also earn dual wins over Mosinee (116.5-108.35) and Lakeland (117.425-67.275).
Medford would earn three, first-team all-GNC honors in the small division, all fro freshman Brooklyn Bilz (floor, bars, and vault). While fellow freshman Makala Ulrich of the Raiders earned second team all-GNC honors (beam, floor, bars, vault, and all-around). The freshman duo was large part of the much improved Raider team that would steal the GNC title from the Hodags.
This season Rhinelander was led by senior Raven Sturtevant, who would finish with first-team all-conference (small division) honors on beam with an 8.525 and was honorable mention in the GNC Small in the all-around with a score of 31.550. Also at the conference meet, Sturtevant placed fourth on the floor (8.225) and tied for fifth on the vault (8.2).
At sectionals Sturtevant was limited on all her floor moves due to a previous injury, but still finished sixth overall with an 8.2 and was an alternate to go to state. She would finish ninth on uneven bars, tied for ninth on the beam, and was 10th in the all-around. As a team the Hodags finished 4th overall at sectionals out of eight teams. Ashland finished 1st, Medford 2nd, and Antigo placed 3rd.
Despite not winning the GNC-Small title again this season or sending any gymnasts to the WIAA State Meet, the Hodags had several highlights that included many personal best records. Eight total gymnasts set personal best which was led by sophomore Autumn Shafer. She had personal bests in all four events this season as well the all-around. Lilli Bishop and Bridget Koser would earn personal bests in three events and the all-around.
Sturtevant would record three personal bests her senior season and Amber Briggs also had two best marks this season. Senior Harlie Zimmermann, Emily Radke, and Alyssa Scheurmann also all finished with a person best for the 2018-2019 season.
The Hodags will lose three seniors to graduation for next season; Sturtevant, Zimmermann, and Mikayla Evenstad. In her senior season, Evenstad missed the entire season due to a knee injury. Rhinelander will return Briggs and Radke for their senior season and will have large shoes to fill with the void of the teams’ top all-around gymnast Sturtevant as well as Zimmermann who started in two of the varsity events for the Hodags.