The next few years look promising for the Menomonie gymnastics team, as a fresh group of talented young women are eager to learn and grow within a tough Big Rivers Conference (BRC).
Along with a new team comes a new coach as well. Erin Liljedahl takes the reins from four-year coach Katie Hulbert, who led the gymnastics team to a fourth place finish at last year’s sectional tournament and sending two gymnasts to the state tournament.
One of those state competitors, senior Grace Braatz, returns for her final season as a Mustang, and will co-captain this year’s team with senior Harlee Quilling.
Braatz wrapped up her 2016-17 state visit with a fifth place finish on the uneven bars and placed seventh in the all-around. She was accompanied at state by then-senior Kaitlyn Trunkel, who took third on the floor, sixth on vault and eighth in the all around.
Though the Menomonie team moves on this year without the aid of Trunkle’s talent, Braatz’s leadership and skill will be a key component to the growth of the budding squad.
“The team lost a strong senior class,” Liljedahl said. “But we have a lot of new girls out for the team, and they are learning fast. Our older girls have been supportive of our new athletes as they want to see the team grow.”
Liljedahl sees incoming freshmen Melody Greenwood and Chloe Oehler as key contributors to the team, as both newcomers already have a strong gymnastics background. She says Greenwood is a natural leader who commits her all at every practice, while Oehler is a hard worker and isn’t afraid to take risks for the team.
Other newcomers include freshmen Olivia Peterson, Aireia Parker and Aspen Suckow, sophomore Brianna Thompson and junior Carlee Stoll. Sophomore Payten Hardy is among the few athletes returning to the roster this season.
Gina Guarnieri will be assisting Liljedahl coaching this season while senior Hannah Mommsen will serve as the team manager.
The Mustangs begin their season Tuesday with meet at Superior High School and continue on the road Saturday, Dec. 16 for an invitational at Tomah High School. Their first home meet will be held on Thursday, Jan. 4 against Eau Claire North/Memorial.
Seniors: Grace Braatz, Hannah Mommsen (manager), Harlee Quilling
Juniors: Carlee Stoll, Justice Quilling
Sophomores: Payten Hardy, Brianna Thompson
Freshmen: Melody Greenwood, Chloe Oehler, Aireia Parker, Olivia Peterson, Aspen Suckow