Wilmot’s Zeitler helps team make first state bid since 2014

By Mike Ramczyk
Sports Editor

Huddled on the elevated floor platform Feb. 22 at the Division 1 Waukesha West Sectional, members of the BUW gymnastics squad waited anxiously for a magic word – Kenosha.

Wilmot’s Jessica Zeitler braces herself for a landing during an uneven bars routine at Thursday’s WIAA Division 1 sectionals in Waukesha. Zeitler, along with her Burlington co-op team, received a state berth with a second place finish (Mike Ramczyk).

As team standings were read over the loud speakers, the Demons knew that if Kenosha earned third place, BUW and Franklin would punch their tickets to the state gymnastics meet.

When “in third place, Kenosha” resonated throughout the silent gymnasium, the emotions overflowed.

BUW gymnasts rejoiced in hugs and tears of joy, knowing the Demons would be heading back to state for the first time since 2014, when Burlington completed a run of four straight state runner-up finishes.

Burlington took second with a 141.55, behind sectional champion Franklin (147.375).

Head coach Andrea Chart, who was in her first year as an assistant coach the last time BUW went to Wisconsin Rapids, has gone to state as a BUW competitor, assistant and now head coach.

“I had no idea, I hated that I had no idea,” Chart said after the meet Thursday. “It made it all that much more special, just feeling the emotions with the girls. It’s great to be back.”

“I told them, the hard part’s over, state’s a blast. State is going to be so much fun, this is the stressful meet. You got to get there.”

Not only is BUW making its first trip to state since 2014, the squad is sending gymnasts to individual state for the first time since 2015.

Regan Cassidy, a sophomore at Lake Geneva Badger, qualified in every event and was third in the all-around (37.025), and Malia Bronson, a freshman at Williams Bay, won the balance beam (9.45) to advance.

You would have to go all the way back to the “Big Three” of Molly Benavides, Bailey Fitzpatrick and Jenna Fitzpatrick to find the last time the Demons competed at team and individual state in the same season.

Cassidy and Bronson, two-thirds of a new star trio along with freshman Ava Trent, helped the team recover after a rough bars performance Thursday.

Finishing strong
BUW started solid with scores in the 35s on vault and floor, but the wheels fell off on bars. Despite a 9.3 from Cassidy, the Demons struggled on bars with falls and miscues, and the fleeting state chances came down to the last event, beam.

BUW saved its best for last, scoring a 36.475, while Kenosha faltered with a 35.225 on vault, and the Demons ended up beating out Kenosha by about 1.5 points for second place.

Bronson’s stellar beam routine dazzled, and Cassidy was right behind her in second with a 9.4. But Wilmot’s Jessica Zeitler added an 8.825, and Trent notched an 8.8 to round out the clutch performance.

“It feels amazing, we’ve been training so hard all year, and this was our main goal,” said Cassidy, who also took fifth on vault. “Coming from club, and experiencing that pressure, helps a lot. We had a lot of pressure, but we handled it well.”

“It’s very, very humbling,” Bronson said. “I’m in shock right now. We’ve worked so hard for this moment, and when they announced it, we were all in tears.”

Chart said it wasn’t an easy night for Bronson and Trent, but the team’s depth showed when the top performers slipped up.

“Mari (Trent), Jess and Carly (Schaefer) are just as important, because when Malia and Ava didn’t hit on certain events, those are the girls that picked us up,” Chart said. “I feel bad that Malia and Ava didn’t get that individual shot on some events, but even more proud for the girls that were the support system. They get to reap the rewards and be at state.”

Chart said it will tough to beat state favorite Franklin, but she said the team’s work isn’t done.

“We’re happy to make it, but we’re looking to make some noise,” she said. “We’re hoping to get that runner-up trophy.”


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