Sabol giving MHS gymnasts a lift

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Rob Reischel
Karina Sabol has had a memorable first year inside Middleton’s girls gymnastics program./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Karina Sabol leapt onto the balance beam, and all eyes immediately gravitated towards Middleton’s dynamic junior gymnast.

Sure, it was a random practice on a random Thursday evening. And many of Sabol’s teammates had undoubtedly seen this routine before.

But every time Sabol does something in a gym, it’s a “Must See” event.

On this night, as the music was cranked and eyeballs turned to Sabol, she made sure not to disappoint. Sabol put on a show, and when she finished, the Cardinals voiced their approval with a loud cheer.

This has been the norm wherever Sabol has gone this year.

Sabol, strictly a club gymnast her entire life, joined Middleton’s program for the first time this winter. And what an addition she’s been.

At last week’s WIAA Division 1 Madison Memorial Sectional, Sabol qualified for state on three events — the balance beam, the floor exercise and the vault. Sabol’s big day also helped Middleton qualify for the state team tournament for a seventh straight year and the 22nd time in school history.

The state team competition begins Friday at 2 p.m., while the individual state competition starts Saturday at 11 a.m.

“Karina has obviously been a huge addition,” Middleton coach Kari Steck said. “She’s a pretty rare talent.”

Steck, now in her eighth season as Middleton’s head coach, also works at Madtown Twisters — where Sabol has been a standout for years. The two developed a strong relationship, although Sabol remained strictly a club gymnast largely because that’s where college recruiters focus their energies.

In Feb., 2017, though, Sabol suffered a bilateral elbow dislocation. The injury was so intense that Sabol is still not medically cleared to perform on the uneven bars.

After the injury occurred, Sabol began thinking about competing at Middleton — and not just as an individual with her club team. So last summer, Sabol and Steck met and the prized gymnast told her new head coach she wanted in.

“I had been thinking about it for a while and it just felt like the right time,” Sabol said. “There’s something special, kind of neat about being part of a team.

“It’s a lot of fun to have the support from your teammates and to be there supporting them and representing your school. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Sabol didn’t want to fully cut ties with her club team. So Steck worked out an arrangement that allows her to practice with MHS half of the time and with Madtown Twisters the other half.

“We make it work,” Steck said. “More teams are doing that now with more gymnasts.

“I think high school gymnasts has made club better and club is making high school better.”

There’s no doubt Sabol has made Middleton better.

At the Big Eight Conference meet on Feb. 17, Sabol won the balance beam (9.70 points) and floor exercise (9.575), and placed second in the vault (9.350). Sabol’s big day there helped Middleton win the conference title and snap Sun Prairie’s three year reign atop the league.

Then at sectionals last week, Sabol won the floor exercise (9.525), was second on the balance beam (9.225) and second on the vault (9.40).

Sabol will now head to state this weekend as one of the frontrunners to win both the balance beam and the floor exercise.

“The whole year has been a lot of fun … and I’m just going to do my best and see what happens,” Sabol said.

Added Steck: “Karina is very, very athletic, but she also has a very high knowledge of the sport. She knows what she needs to do (at state) and she’s certainly capable of doing some amazing things.”

Sabol has been an amazing addition to Middleton’s already solid lineup this season.

And Sabol’s presence this weekend could lead to great things for both her and the Cardinals.

“Last year, I didn’t know where I was going to be (competing), but everything has worked out great,” Sabol said. “It’s been a great year.”


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