MINNEAPOLIS - For a team ranked No. 14 in the final prep gymnastics poll, just qualifying for the Class A state team meet seemed almost unattainable nearly two months ago.
The youthful Martin County Area Magic, however, achieved the unthinkable by capturing the Section 3 championship to earn a spot in the Class A state field in Minneapolis.
Freshman phenom Bryanna Peterson and senior stalwart Rebecca Steen generated all-around scores of 35.325 and 34.1, respectively, on Friday to guide the Magic to an eighth-place team total of 136.65 at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.
"Bryanna really had a nice bars set today," Martin County Area mentor LeeAnn Steen said in reference to Peterson's team-best individual mark of 9.2 on the unevens. "Becca started out well on the floor and vault, but you could tell she was still sore and not 100 percent (due to her neck injury from late December).
"Overall, I was pleased with the way our entire team performed today. We hit all of our floors and vaults, while we only counted one fall on the beam."
Ironically, No. 1-ranked Melrose Area utilized its high-octane lineup to score a 36.95 on the balance beam to create enough separation on the judges' scoresheets to squeeze by defending state champion New Prague for the Class A state team crown, 149.575-149.05.
New Prague, which netted a 36.275 on beam, actually outpointed Melrose Area on the unevens - 37.55-36.975 - and the floor - 37.7-37.675. Unfortunately for the runner-up Trojans, Melrose Area also topped New Prague on the vault, 37.975-37.525.
Meanwhile, Martin County Area generated its highest total on the vault via 35.8 points during its second team rotation on the Sports Pavilion's equipment.
Rebecca Steen hit her Tsuk for a team-leading 9.15, while Martha Olson turned her Tsuk for a 9.05. Mackenzie Betts supplied an 8.9, Sydney Leichtnam delivered an 8.7 out of the leadoff spot, while Peterson chipped in an 8.375.
The Magic opened the state competition by producing a 34.625 on the floor exercise. Steen notched a 9.025, while Peterson followed closely in the scoring column with an 8.95.
Lexy Ringnell (8.5), Maggie Bachenberg (8.15) and Brielle Meade (7.825) rounded out MCA's effort on the floor, respectively.
Peterson then moved to the unevens to chalk up her team-best 9.2 mark, while Andrea Thate tallied the No. 2 total of 7.8. Steen (7.625), Briana Gratz (7.5) and Michaela Twitchell (7.325) then capped MCA's effort of 32.125 on the bars.
Betts delivered the Magic's top mark of 8.85 on the balance beam, with Peterson and Steen generating an 8.8 and an 8.3, respectively. Brooklyn Leichtnam and Jenna Steele completed MCA's effort with an 8.15 and a 7.8, respectively.
Peterson and Steen return to the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion at 11 a.m. today to compete in the Class A state individual meet's all-around competition, while Olson will compete for the vault crown.
Class A State Team
At University of Minnesota
Team Standings: 1. Melrose Area 149.575; 2. New Prague 149.05; 3. Detroit Lakes 148.45; 4. Austin 148.3; 5. North Branch 146.3; 6. Big Lake 139.0; 7. The Breck School 136.825; 8. Martin County Area 136.65.
MCA Individual Results
All-Around: Bryanna Peterson 35.325; Rebecca Steen 34.1.
Vault: Rebecca Steen 9.15; Martha Olson 9.05; Mackenzie Betts 8.9; Sydney Leichtnam 8.7; Bryanna Peterson 8.375.
Uneven Parallel Bars: Bryanna Peterson 9.2; Andrea Thate 7.8; Rebecca Steen 7.625; Briana Gratz 7.5; Michaela Twitchell 7.325.
Balance Beam: Mackenzie Betts 8.85; Bryanna Peterson 8.8; Rebecca Steen 8.3; Brooklyn Leichtnam 8.15; Jenna Steele 7.8.
Floor Exercise: Rebecca Steen 9.025; Bryanna Peterson 8.95; Lexy Ringnell 8.5; Maggie Bachenberg 8.15; Brielle Meade 7.825.