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Wendel builds off sophomore season

Junior Hannah Wendel holds a pose during her routine on the beam on Tuesday night against Moorhead. Wendel won the all-around with a score of 36.25 after winning three of the four events against Spuds. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Alexandria gymnast Hannah Wendel is hoping to have more than just her performances do the talking for her this season.

Wendel was a sophomore last year when she saved her best for last in bringing home a championship on the vault at the Class A state tournament. At the time, she was happy to go out and perform and let athletes like senior three-year captain Briquelle Bowden lead the way on a more vocal level.

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Now as a junior with a state title behind her, she hopes to be one of the girls that her teammates can look to for guidance on an Alexandria team that is currently ranked 15th in the latest Class A polls.

“Personally, one of my goals is to step up and kind of try to fill [Briquelle’s] shoes and lift us up,” Wendel said after taking first in the all-around against Moorhead on Tuesday night. “That [win at state] did help kind of boost my confidence in being able to step up as a leader figure on the team.

“Last year, I was one of the new youngsters and authority didn’t come much from the younger girls. It came mostly from the upperclassmen, so having that win at state under my belt has definitely boosted my confidence and puts a little bit of a fire under me to work even harder and see if we can repeat this year.”

Wendel has already carried over the momentum from that win at state as she has gotten off to a fast start this season. She won every routine in the bars, beam, vault and floor through Alexandria’s first three meets before taking second in the all-around against Brainerd.

Wendel was back at the top on Tuesday night as she finished first in all-around with a 36.25. She won the vault (9.35), bars (9.0) and floor (9.5), while taking second on the beam (8.4).

Wendel said she felt she let the team down a little bit after falling once off the beam. She didn’t dwell on it too long. Instead, she bounced right back and nailed her floor routine to help the Cardinals edge the Spuds by fewer than two points.

“I would say probably I’m most confident on the floor right now,” she said. “Vault is probably a close second, but on the floor, something is working. Things are just flowing and they’re coming easier than they normally do, and I’m just feeling good about that event.”

Wendel’s fast start has helped the Cardinals jump out to a 4-1 record through their first five meets. It’s her focus toward the overall wins and losses of this program that head coach Becca Cederberg appreciates.

“I think something that Hannah brings to our group is she really puts a lot of pressure to not only herself, but she brings a team aspect to it,” Cederberg said. “She knows that she wants to stick because it helps bring our team score up, or she wants to land on vault because it helps our team score. It’s really fun to see that part of her as well.”

Wendel isn’t looking too far ahead at what another trip to the state tournament could mean for her. Instead, she chooses to focus on the next meet in front of her in hopes of maintaining the kind of consistency that will benefit her and this team down the road.

“I think one of my biggest goals would be to go through the end of the season, through conference and sections and state, and put up a solid, consistent score each time,” Wendel said. “If I can do that, I’ll be happy no matter what the placing turns out. If I could go to the state tournament and place in the top five in all-around for the school and for the team, I think that would be a really big boost coming back next season and just give us a little bit of fire.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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