Contrasting perspectives: Packer state qualifying gymnasts are all in different mindsets 

Published 12:08 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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The Austin gymnastics team has a mix of experience, youthful exuberance and finality in its three state qualifiers as the team prepares for the Class A Individual Gymnastics Meet, which will be held in Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Austin senior Emily Klapperich will make her final performance for the Packers on the beam at state, eighth grader Callie McRae will make her state debut on floor and junior Kiki Rodriguez will compete in her third state meet, with it being her first ever all-around competition.

Klapperich is equally nervous and excited about competing in a high pressure event in front of the biggest crowd she’ll ever compete in front of.

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“I’m not really sure what to expect,” Klapperich said. “I thought about not falling and sticking my jumps (at sections). Going to state means a lot for me, because it’s really hard to make it to state and beam is a harder event. It’s hard to stay focused and if you fall, you have to be able to get back up.”

McRae never had state as a goal, but she surprised herself with a big-time performance to give her floor routine one more chance on the big stage.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” McRae said. “I was just trying to have fun since it would be my last time doing this floor routine. When I knew I was going to state, I thought it was crazy. I’m going to enjoy this experience.”

Last season, Rodriguez took 22nd in the vault and 18th in the floor at state.  Due to an ankle injury, she’ll be putting most of her energy on the bars and beam.

I’m more serious this year and I would like to beat scores on vault and floor while doing good on bars and beam being the first time I’ll be competing in those at state,” Rodriguez said. 

If McRae continues her hard work, there is a chance she could be competing in the all-around at state, just like Rodriguez. But for now, she’s just going to enjoy the moment.

“All-around is a goal and what Kiki is doing is something to look up to and work towards,” McRae said. “This year, I’m going to enjoy the floor.”