Over the past three seasons of WIAA state championships and all the fun that goes with them, the clear driver for the Franklin, Muskego, Oak Creek and Whitnall gymnastics co-op team has been its depth.
Seemingly countless talented individuals able to fill in at a moment's notice posting amazing scores, leaving their opponents' jaws dropping in their wake.
But the numbers dwindled after last year's eight-person senior class took their leave, and so FMOW had to go a different route this year.
Now the numbers don't count quite as much as the talent does, and the talent, if anything, is even more alarming.
Another conference win
A week after the local co-op burst back onto the scene in this reloading year with a state best 149-point score in the Mukwonago Invitational, it did not skip a beat, winning its third straight Southeast/Classic 8 Conference meet on Feb. 20 with a 147.6 score.
And they did it with a decidedly dominant edge in the all-around competition, as Sam Balcerak (37.625), Jerica Kotarak (36.95) and Erin Scholz (36.775) swept the top three positions, respectively, while Jessica Kossoris was a strong sixth (36.25).
"The all-around, that's a real change from the past for us," said coach Katie Moore. "Last year (the last of the three state titles), we had only one all-around (Balcerak). Now, this year, we're relying on four all-arounds and they've really proven themselves in competition."
In an impressive fashion.
FMOW will now begin its run toward a potential fourth straight state crown when it participates in the WIAA sectional meet at Burlington at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 27. The competition will be much the same as the conference with the Burlington, Kenosha, Mukwonago and Waukesha co-ops all taking part.
It is widely seen as the toughest sectional in the state.
The top two teams plus the first five finishers in all events, including the all-around, will advance to the WIAA State Meet in Wisconsin Rapids on March 7 and 8.
"We all know each other down there so the competition is friendly," said Moore. "We're all looking to do our best. Everyone is hard on themselves so they'll be no work ethic issues. Everyone knows what's at stake."
A title on floor, too
FMOW got a good feel for what will be required with the conference title. The winning score of 147.6 was a good three-plus points ahead of runner-up Arrowhead (144.425) and the Mukwonago co-op (144.275).
The all-arounds made themselves noticed right away. Along with her all-around title, Balcerak also claimed the floor exercise with a 9.5. She was also fourth on balance beam (9.175), and third on uneven bars (9.3) and vault (9.65).
Kotarak also had a good day, earning eighth on beam (9.0), fifth on floor (9.25), fourth on bars (9.25) and sixth on vault (9.45).
Scholz was ninth on beam (8.925), fourth on floor (9.3), sixth on bars (9.05) and fourth on vault (9.5).
Kossoris was fifth on beam (9.15), 10th on floor (8.95) and bars (8.75) and eighth on vault (9.4).
FMOW dominated the team vault competition with a 38.0 combined mark while turning in a 37.0 on floor.
"It's been a really good event for us all year, by far our best," said Moore of vault.
Overall, the veteran coach has been stunned by the progress of the team.
"To win this is a neat thing, an honor," she said. "We know how good the competition is. It was going to be tough. It had been easier the last few years, but given our circumstances, what we graduated, we knew it would be a real challenge.
"When we went from 144 to 149 the previous week, even we were surprised. We had been working on some things. It was just the first time we had everyone in the line-up and they all hit. Now going into this past week, we were pretty confident, feeling good.
"Everyone knew what was on the line again."
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