Gymnasts meet, surpass expectations
Wendi Hartig's goal for the Park Rapids-Nevis gymnastics team in her first year as head coach was to build upon what last year's group accomplished.
The Panthers met and exceeded those expectations.
A year ago, the Panthers ended the season by scoring 124.95 points at the Mid-State Conference meet to finish third and followed with 120.875 points to place fourth at the Section 8A meet.
The returning gymnasts picked up where they left off last season.
This year's team surpassed 120 points 10 times in 12 meets with a season high of 125.35. Senior Micah Richards provided the main highlight of the season by qualifying for the state Class A meet on balance beam. That was Park Rapids' first state qualifier since Allie Schluter qualified on uneven parallel bars in 2002.
Park Rapids set the tone for the year with a solid performance in a 125.35 to 118.65 loss to Bemidji in a season-opening dual meet.
Over the next three meets, the Panthers' team score steadily rose in losses to Little Falls (131.20 to 120.225) and Detroit Lakes (140.05 to 121.45) and in a third-place finish at the Park Rapids Invitational with 125.35 points. Bemidji won that meet with a 131.35. A 146.55 to 124.15 loss to Perham followed as the Panthers opened the season with an 0-4 record in dual meets.
The Panthers continued to turn in solid efforts despite having to replace senior Megan Lawrence, who missed the final seven meets with an ankle injury.
After placing third at the Moorhead Invitational with a 119.45 (Moorhead took first with a 132.70), Park Rapids surpassed 120 points the rest of the season.
Park Rapids defeated Frazee 120.30 to 111.90, lost to Detroit Lakes 140.125 to 120.95, defeated Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 121.95 to 113.45 and lost to Bemidji 130.875 to 122.925 to end the dual-meet schedule with a 2-6 record.
At the Mid-State Conference meet, the Panthers finished third with a 121.875. Perham repeated as conference champs with a 146.20.
The Panthers ended the season with another solid performance at the Section 8A meet, tallying 124.90 points to finish fourth. Perham, the No. 1-ranked Class A team in the state, won the section title with a 148.50 and went on to win the state Class A title for the sixth straight year. Detroit Lakes, which was rated No. 7 in the state, ended up finishing second at the section meet with a 144.425 and Fergus Falls was third with a 125.425.
Richards gave the Panthers a state qualifier for the first time in seven years when the Nevis senior finished fourth on balance beam with an 8.90 at the section meet.
"We had a really good section meet," said Hartig. "It was a good way to end the season."
For the season, the Panthers had an average team score of 121.85 with averages of 33.38 in vault, 29.98 on beam, 29.75 in floor exercise and 28.74 on bars. Park Rapids' high marks in those four events were 34.10 in vault, 32.45 on beam, 31.625 in floor and 31.50 on bars.
Leading the Panthers this season were the 10 gymnasts who competed on varsity: Richards and Lawrence; juniors Kyja Penning and Kirsten Erickson; sophomore Samantha Bera; freshman Emily Klingenberg; eighth graders Jessica Andersen and Katherine Erickson; and seventh graders Cassie Baxter and Ellen Hoffman.
Richards capped off her senior season by placing 25th with an 8.075 on beam at the state meet. Richards had the second highest all-around average on the team with a 32.24 and led the team on beam with an 8.08 average. Richards' other averages were 8.59 in vault, 7.92 in floor and 7.85 on bars. Richards had season highs of 8.90 on beam (twice), 8.775 in vault, 8.60 on bars, 8.45 in floor and 33.75 in all-around. Richards, who had her high all-around score to finish eighth at the section meet, also finished 11th in vault with an 8.75, 13th in floor with an 8.15 and 14th on bars with a 7.95 at the section meet.
Penning was the Panthers' top all-around performer with an average of 32.60 and a high of 33.65. Penning led the team with averages of 8.35 in floor and 8.03 on bars and was second with an 8.60 average in vault. Penning also had a 7.63 average on beam. Penning's top marks during the season were 8.85 in vault, 8.725 in floor, 8.60 on bars and 8.40 on beam. Penning placed 10th in all-around with a 32.80 and led the team with an 8.35 for 12th place in floor and an 8.05 for 11th place on bars at the section meet. Penning also took 13th in vault with an 8.60 and 16th on beam with a 7.80 at the section meet.
Lawrence had the Panthers' third highest average in all-around before her season-ending injury. In the first five meets, Lawrence had a 30.39 all-around average with a high of 31.25. Lawrence led the team with an 8.73 average in vault with a high of 9.05 while tallying averages of 7.52 on beam, 7.19 in floor and 6.95 on bars. Lawrence's top marks in those events were 8.45 on beam, 7.90 in floor and 7.50 on bars.
Klingenberg was the Panthers' other all-around performer, finishing the season with a 27.94 all-around average in nine meets. Klingenberg had a season high all-around score of 29.05 with highs of 8.10 in vault, 7.90 on beam, 7.25 in floor and 7.20 on bars. Klingenberg had averages of 7.79 in vault, 6.93 on beam, 6.49 on bars and 6.47 in floor. At the section meet, Klingenberg finished 12th in all-around with a 28.25. Klingenberg was 21st in vault with a 7.95, 28th on beam with a 7.55, 19th on bars with a 6.75 and 23rd in floor with a 6.00 at the section meet.
Andersen started out the season as an all-around competitor, averaging a 24.11 in four meets. Andersen had a high all-around score of 25.45 with averages of 7.85 in vault, 6.76 on beam, 5.88 in floor and 4.48 on bars. Andersen had season highs of 8.15 in vault, 7.75 on beam, 6.65 in floor and 5.65 on bars. At the section meet, Andersen placed 17th on beam with a 7.75 and 23rd in vault with a 7.75 and on bars with a 5.65.
Kirsten Erickson was a section competitor in floor, finishing17th with a 7.20. Erickson competed in floor in 10 meets, finishing with a 6.78 average and a high of 7.35. Erickson also competed on beam in one varsity meet.
Katherine Erickson rounded out Park Rapids' beam team at the section meet by placing 19th with a season best 7.15. Erickson had a 5.97 average on beam in nine varsity meets.
Baxter earned a varsity spot on bars and finished the season with a 6.06 average in nine meets. Baxter had a season high of 7.05 to finish18th at the section meet. Baxter also had an 8.20 in vault in her only varsity appearance in that event.
Bera competed in seven varsity meets in floor and two varsity meets in vault. Bera had a 6.50 average in floor with a high of 7.65 and a 7.33 average in vault with a high of 8.00. At the section meet, Bera had a 5.70 to finish 24th in floor.
Hoffman earned a spot on the section team in vault and finished 18th with an 8.10. In five varsity meets, Hoffman had a 7.96 average in vault with a high of 8.15.
Competing on junior varsity this season were seniors Rachel Calderon and Lillian Tovar; freshmen Taylor Ahart, Lindsey Neihart, Jessica Petrie and Isis Tovar; eighth grader Lesa Ludwinski; and seventh graders Kayla Johnk, Melanie Allen, Tiffany Hanson, Bailey Yliniemi, Samantha Harshman, Taylor Drury and Savannah Gatewood.