“It was a great day to be a BEAR,” was coach Kelly Rivers’ enthusiastic assessment of the White Bear Lake gymnastic team’s section performance on Saturday.

Hosting Section 4AA, the Bears had two of the three all-around state qualifiers — champion Laney Gunderson and third-place Grace Squires — with Lia Zimmerman also advancing to state.

The team was runner-up in a strong field including four teams breaking the 140 marker.

Topping it off, the Bears captured the section’s academic team championship with an average GPA of 3.883, and coaches Kelly Rivers and Sara Crist were named Section 4AA coach and assistant coach of the year.

Stillwater had three of the top eight all-rounders in rolling up the first-place score of 147.000. Following were the Bears with a season-high 141.325, Mahtomedi 140.725, Mounds View/Irondale 140.250, Roseville Area 139.900, St. Paul Central 121.975, Tartan 114.175 and North St. Paul 111.900.

Gunderson won all-around with 36.90 and balance beam with 9.75. She placed third on floor exercise (9.425), eighth on vault (9.15) and 13th on uneven bars (8.575).

Squires scored 36.625 all-around for third place while placing second on bars (9.575), fifth on floor (9.40) and 16th on vault (8.825).

Both are juniors who’ll compete at state for the third time, and in all-around for the first time. 

Zimmerman, a senior co-captain, placed fourth on balance beam with 9.125, qualifying for state for the first time.  

The state Class AA meet for both team and individual will be held Saturday at Champlin Park High School.

The Bears got off to a “phenomenal” start on their first event, balance beam. “The girls rocked it,” Rivers said, “with only one fall total out of five routines and all of our girls placed in the top 12.”

Four of five entrants “stuck” their routine with only Squires suffering a fall. Along with Gunderson, Zimmerman, and Squires, Josie Mlejnek scored 8.675 (11th place) and Kaylee Zimmerman 8.650 (12th place). The Bears had the top beam score, 36.575.

The state appearances will cap off a season that also included a 6-2 dual meet record.

“The girls did an amazing job all season staying positive and working hard,” Rivers said. “They deserved this today and us coaches could not be more proud.”

Bear scores:

Vault — (8) Laney Gunderson 9.15 (16) Grace Squires 8.825 (25) Lia Zimmerman 8.25 (28) Riley Robovsky 8.175 (32) Katherine Hanson 8.050

Uneven bars — (2) Squires 9.575 (12) Robovsky 8.80 (13) Gunderson 8.575 (22) Josie Mlejnek 7.825 (32) L. Zimmerman 6.20

Balance beam — (1) Gunderson 9.75 (4) L. Zimmerman 9.125 (8) Squires 8.825 (11) Mlejnek 8.626 (12) Kaylee Zimmerman 8.65

Floor exercise — (3) Gunderson 9.425 (5) Squires 9.40 (20) Mlejnek 8.80 (23) Robovsky 8.35 (26) L. Zimmerman 8.20

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