Claire O’Gorman’s mom gave her sage advice as she was set to begin the final meet of her gymnastics career: Savor the moment.
Saturday’s Class 2A state meet at Champlin Park High School was the Forest Lake senior’s swan song in a sport she joined when she was 5 years old.
Not only did O’Gorman savor, but she succeeded.
The senior won the floor exercise title, finished second in the all-around and helped Forest Lake place second as a team.
“It was so meaningful, just because it was my last ever meet doing gymnastics,” O’Gorman said. “I’ve been doing it ever since I was 5, all day, every day, and just to be done was insane.”
Sartell won the team title with a score of 148.050. The Sabres were led by a sensational performance from senior Marley Michaud, who won the all-around with a score of 38.125 and also claimed titles in the vault (9.875) and uneven bars (9.725).
Park Center’s Annika Lee was third in the all-around (37.675), while Eagan’s Hannah Maccarone was fourth (37.625) and Lakeville North’s Kaitlyn Nguyen was fifth (37.5). Eagan was fourth in the team competition, while Stillwater was fifth.
Forest Lake junior Keely Cisco won the balance beam title with a score of 9.575, another bright spot in a magical day for the Rangers.
O’Gorman said her team was able to perform so well on the big stage because, while state was always a goal for the season, the Rangers weren’t “destined” to be there.
“Since we made it, we were like, ‘Might as well give it our all,’ ” O’Gorman said.
Not a bad strategy.
The Rangers were the stars of the afternoon session. The meet was split up this year because of COVID-19 precautions, with four sections competing in the afternoon and four competing in the evening.
The Rangers were leading the team race and O’Gorman led the all-around when they left the gym, but for all they knew, they could’ve finished first or fifth by day’s end.
“I had no idea,” O’Gorman said. “I was so anxious the whole day, just bouncing around, waiting to figure out if I’d drop or if I’d stay the same. It was so nerve-wracking.”
The only reason the Rangers dropped was because of Sartell’s excellence. The Sabres finished second to Lakeville North a year ago and weren’t going to be denied this time.
“This team put in the effort, the hours, the dedication,” Sartell coach Briquelle Olson said. “They had the full package. This was our dream team. They looked solid all week, in particular.”
Sartell started the night with a mammoth 38.2 on vault, which Olson said fired up her team. The momentum never seemed to stop. Michaud lit the candle throughout.
This was the meet for which the Sabres had been waiting. Olson and Co. held the group back a bit in this shortened season to make sure they would be healthy when it mattered most.
“This was the biggest meet we’ve had all season,” Olson said. “It’s been mostly two-team duals with no one in the stands. They hadn’t had any pressure on them. So they just came out and did what had been expected of them all season.”
Forest Lake gathered back at the school to watch the remainder of the meet play out on a big screen. When the dust settled and the Rangers realized all they’d achieved — a second-place finish and a team score of 146.775, .275 better than their season-long goal — the celebration commenced. Assistant coach Robb Walrath busted out some fake champagne and the Rangers toasted.
O’Gorman was surprised she had claimed the floor title. It was Forest Lake’s first event of the day — you usually don’t start on floor — and she thought her 9.650 was good, but not state title good.
It was another nice surprise in a season full of successes. O’Gorman’s goal for the season was simply to enjoy herself and have the best campaign she could. In past seasons, she’d missed meets for injuries or illnesses. She competed in all of them in her final go-around and wrapped her career Saturday in a sea of success. How’s that for finishing on a high note?
“Yes,” she said, “it was a good way to end.”