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2001-2002 Gymnastics Team

The 2001-2002 RFHS Gymnastics team far exceeded all school, community, and personal expectations.  The team consisted of only 9 girls, all of whom competed for the team throughout the entire season.  At the time, the program was at risk of being cut, but the coaching staff, including head coach Shelly Kahut-Loomis and assistant coaches Brian Whipple and Jessica (Hegle) Luebker, were persistent and formulated a team of diverse women that focused more on team-building than it did winning. Throughout the season the focus was to be a collective and supportive team, working to solidify routines under a credo emphasizing confidence, consistency, and charisma (“CCC”).

The team was comprised of more freshmen than upperclassmen, giving the returning gymnasts an opportunity to provide leadership inside and outside the gym walls.  Members included one senior captain (Morgan (McCardle) Traynor), one junior (Allison Flanscha), two sophomores (Jessica Lorenzen and Suzanne Kolpin), and five freshmen (Lauren Brathol, Ashley Dusek, Raeanna (Johnson) Del Pino, Natalie (Langlois) Schmitz, and Katherine (Penton) Robinson).  Six of these nine were new to the high school team that year, coming from the River Falls Gymnastics Club. 

During the regular season the team went 40-3 (including invitational meets) and broke the school record for team score twice, as well as earning a score above 140 for the first time.  None of these accomplishments came without several injuries and recoveries, hard work and determination.  At the Big Rivers Conference championship, 2 women made 1st team all BRC (Allison Flanscha and Katherine (Penton) Robinson).  Allison also placed 1st on the Balance Beam, Floor Exercise, and All-Around and placed 2nd on the Uneven Bars.  Katherine had a 2nd place finish on the Balance Beam.  The team finished second by .475 points, but walked away motivated to prove to themselves that their hard work throughout the season had made them better than the talent they displayed that day.  Using that determination, they rebounded by winning Sectionals, advancing the team to the State competition for the first time in 5 years.  5 gymnasts also qualified individually in 9 spots:  Ashley Dusek (Bars), Allison Flanscha (Bars, Floor, Vault, All-Around), Natalie (Langlois) Schmitz (Bars), Jessica Lorenzen (Vault), and Morgan (McCardle)Traynor (Bars, Beam). 

Preparing for the State meet, the team focused on making their routines solid and consistent.  The night before competition, the coaches reminded the girls to focus on having fun—the focus was not on winning, but on savoring and appreciating the successful season as a unified team and representing their team, school and families at the State meet. 

During the Individual State championship meet, Allison Flanscha won the Uneven Bars 1st place title, as well as placing 2nd in the All-Around, 3rd in the Floor Exercise, and 3rd on Vault.

 As the Team State championship meet progressed and routines were completed, RF parents and fans were in the stands adding and calculating scores.  Everyone was excited and amazed that River Falls was even in the running, not to mention leading in the state tournament.  The scores were neck-in-neck with the team from Whitefish Bay, but as the final events came to a close, River Falls’ accumulated lead held strong for a first place finish with a score of 141.0667. This score broke the school record for a third time that season as well as setting a new WI State Team Score record in Division 2.  The team became the first team sport to win a state championship title in RFHS history.

After the State Championship, the team was honored in a school-wide assembly to celebrate being the first team to win a State title.  The team also visited the RF elementary schools to celebrate the history they had made within the community and to provide the young students with role models; demonstrating that hard work, goal-setting, and commitment can produce success in all aspects of life.  The 2001-2002 team kicked off the current tradition and surge in the success of the River Falls Gymnastics program, leading to 10 more consecutive State appearances (thus far) including 5 championships, 2 of these following in 2003 and 2004.