Gymnasts hoping for chance to strut their stuff

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Lexi Quartaro and Middleton’s girls gymnastics team have high hopes — if they’re allowed to compete./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Kari Steck took over Middleton’s girls gymnastics program in 2010.

The past decade has seen tremendous success and growth.

The Cardinals have been to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament eight times. Middleton has three top-five finishes at state in that time.

And the Cardinals have crowned a pair of individual state champions — Karina Sabol in the vault (2018) and Madeline Pflasterer-Jennerjohn in the uneven bars (2017).

Now, Steck is simply crossing her fingers that her 11th season will take place.

While teams across the state began practicing Nov. 16 and many will have their first meets this week, things are on hold at MHS. Public Health Madison & Dane County issued Emergency Order #10 on Nov. 17, which prohibits indoor gatherings of any size.

While Steck is optimistic her team will eventually have a season, the Cardinals are currently in a holding pattern.

“We are really hopeful we can have a season of some sort,” Steck said. “It's been such an incredible 10 years of creating a family for these kids outside their own homes, and we're determined to make that happen even if we can't be in the gym.

“We've been having ‘virtual’ conditioning practices, complete with team building and all, to really try to help kids make that connection with each other even if we can’t be in the gym right now.”

If the Cardinals can have a season, Steck believes she’ll field a deep and gifted team.

Senior Taylor Engelkes reached the state tournament last year and finished in 17th place in the all-around competition. Engelkes was also 17th on the floor exercise and 20th on the vault (8.817).

“She’s a captain,” Steck said. “She’s a great leader with lots of experience under pressure.”

Junior Megg Weiler is another captain who finished in 23rd place on the uneven bars at state last year.

“It was her first year on the team last year,” Steck said of Weiler. “She grew immensely in her confidence as a gymnast and as a leader.”

Sophomores Jayden Mathias, Lucy Hellenbrand and Lexi Quartaro were all key contributors last year and will have key roles again.

“Jayden’s such a talented kid,” Steck said. “She'll be one to watch over the next few years. Lexi Quartaro’s confidence grew a ton last year. She's got great potential.

“And we’re working on keeping (Lucy) strong and healthy. We've got such strength and depth in the program, so the future is going to be very exciting.”

Senior Maddie Phaneuf is another key returnee, who will be part of the Cardinals’ balance beam lineup.

“Her confidence has grown tremendously over the past few years, and I anticipate she'll be one to watch,” Steck said of Phaneuf.

Steck also expects freshman all-arounder Scarlet Stahl and freshman Vivian Cressman (floor) to play big roles.

“Both girls are young but are coming in with a great, strong foundation,” Steck said.

If Middleton can have a season, it might look different than past years. Larger invites may not happen. Competitions will likely be restricted to dual meets, and could even be virtual.

That’s something Steck and the Cardinals are more than fine with.

Middleton is just hoping for a chance to compete — and let its potentially terrific group show their stuff.

“We really have a lot of depth this year,” Steck said. “We lost a great senior class with strong leadership, however they made sure to pass on the tradition and ethics to the underclassmen.”

 

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