Rebuilding season deemed a success
With only three letterwinners back from last year, Wendi Hartig expected a rebuilding season from the Park Rapids-Nevis gymnastics team.
The Panthers fielded an inexperienced team with no seniors on the roster. Only juniors Taylor Drury and Kayla Johnk and sophomore Amy Klein returned with any varsity experience. That experience was limited as Drury and Johnk competed in only two events each and Klein competed in only one event at last year’s Section 8A meet.
Despite lacking in experience, the Panthers turned in consistent scores all season and peaked at the end of the year by scoring a season-high 98.10 at the section meet.
In dual meets, the Panthers finished with a 1-8 record. Park Rapids opened the season with losses to Sauk Rapids (134.275 to 89.55), Bemidji (132.25 to 92.475) and Detroit Lakes (138.975 to 96.60) before placing fifth at the five-team Park Rapids Invitational with an 89.40. Bemidji took first with a 132.00.
Four more losses followed as the Panthers were defeated by Perham (137.90 to 96.20), Frazee (85.85 to 81.90 in a meet that didn’t include uneven parallel bars), Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (116.325 to 96.20) and Bemidji (128.60 to 94.70).
The Panthers peaked at the end of the season by tallying a season high in a 96.85 to 73.35 win over Frazee. Park Rapids closed out the regular season with a loss to Detroit Lakes (145.225 to 96.60).
At the Section 8A meet, the Panthers received a season high of 98.10 to finish seventh out of eight teams. Perham won the section title for the 11th year in a row with a 145.05. Detroit Lakes was rated No. 8 and Perham was rated No. 9 in the final state Class A poll. Perham ended up placing fourth at the state meet.
For the season, the Panthers averaged a 94.67 in the 10 complete meets. Park Rapids’ averages in each event were 30.90 in vault (with a high of 32.45), 24.75 in floor exercise (with a high of 28.35), 21.12 on balance beam (with a high of 24.40) and 18.41 on bars (with a high of 21.50).
“I thought the girls did really well,” said Hartig, whose team received a state Silver Academic Award for having a team GPA of at least 3.60. “The girls worked hard, had a positive attitude and continued to improve all season. I thought it was a good year.”
Leading the Panthers this season were the 10 gymnasts who earned letters: Drury, Johnk, Klein, sophomores Nicole Eischens, Lindsey Girtz and Kylee Roy; freshmen Chloe Hauth, Jordyn Hochstatter and Talya Smith; and eighth grader Olivia Fischer. Eighth graders Jasmine Cease and Rachel Konshok and seventh grader Alex Kirlin also competed on varsity.
Drury, who finished 28th on bars and 34th in vault at last year’s section meet, led the team in vault with a 7.89 average and bars with a 6.31 average in 10 meets. Drury had high marks of 8.10 in vault and 7.00 on bars and had a 6.18 average in floor with a high of 6.95. At the section meet, Drury finished 25th on bars, tied for 31st in vault and placed 40th in floor. Drury shared the team’s MVP honor.
Klein was the Panthers’ top all-around performer with an average of 24.70 and a high of 25.90 in 10 meets. Klein led the Panthers in floor with a 6.92 average (and a high of 8.05) and was second in vault with a 7.84 average (and a high of 8.20), beam with a 5.84 average (and a high of 6.55) and bars with a 4.22 average (and a high of 5.20). At the section meet, Klein placed 20th in all-around, 27th in floor, 30th on beam, 34th in vault and 37th on bars. Klein finished 35th on beam at last year’s section meet. Klein shared the team’s MVP honor and was named Most Dedicated.
Johnk, who finished 31st in vault and 36th in floor at last year’s section meet, had the Panthers’ second-best all-around average of 22.44 with a high of 23.00. In nine meets, Johnk had averages of 7.68 in vault (with a team high of 8.40), 6.36 in floor (with a high of 7.15), 4.56 on beam (with a high of 5.35) and 4.00 on bars (with a high of 4.65). At the section meet, Johnk placed 22nd in all-around, 34th on bars, 35th on beam, 36th in vault and 39th in floor. Johnk received the team’s Most Dedicated and Most Spirited honors.
Eischens made her varsity debut and led the team in average on beam with a 5.85, including a team-leading 7.15. Eischens also competed in 10 meets and had averages of 7.52 in vault (with a high of 7.80) and 4.84 in floor (with a high of 7.10). Eischens placed 29th on beam, 35th in floor and 37th in vault at the section meet. Eischens received the team’s Best Attitude honor.
Girtz also made her varsity debut and posted averages of 7.53 in vault (with a high of 7.80), 5.30 in floor (with a high of 6.90), 5.07 on beam (with a high of 6.15) and 3.25 on bars (with a high of 3.45). Girtz competed in all-around in two meets and had a 21.65 average with a high of 22.75. At the section meet, Girtz was 33rd in floor, 37th on beam and 39th in vault.
Roy, who competed on bars in two varsity meets last season, competed in that event in nine meets this season, finishing with a 4.20 average and a high of 5.05. Roy placed 29th in that event at the section meet. Roy shared the team’s Best Attitude honor.
Hauth rounded out this year’s section team by placing 36th on bars. Hauth competed in six varsity meets and posted averages of 7.18 in vault (with a high of 7.30) and 3.84 on bars (with a high of 4.25). Hauth was named Rookie of the Year and Most Improved.
Hochstatter competed in five varsity meets and had a 3.83 average on beam with a high of 4.90.
Smith also competed in five varsity meets and had averages of 5.03 in floor (with a high of 5.35) and 4.00 on beam (with a high of 4.45). Smith shared the team’s Most Improved honor.
Fischer competed as an all-around performer in one varsity meet, tallying a 19.65. Fischer competed in five varsity meets overall, finishing with averages of 7.30 in vault (with a high of 7.75), 4.57 on beam (with a high of 4.75) and 2.95 on bars (with a high of 3.65). Fischer also had a 4.70 in her only varsity appearance in floor.
Cease competed in three varsity meets in floor, finishing with a 5.67 average and a high of 6.80.
Konshok received a 17.35 in her only varsity all-around showing, including marks of 7.60 in vault, 3.00 on beam and 2.75 on bars. Konshok competed in three varsity meets in floor with a 4.18 average and a high of 4.80. Konshok also received a Most Spirited honor.
Kirlin filled in on varsity on beam in one meet and received a 3.40.
Looking ahead to next season, Hartig is looking for the Panthers to build on the momentum from the end of the season and improve on their individual skills and event scores.
“I expect us to improve even more next year,” said Hartig. “The girls were pretty consistent and improved a lot this year. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off.”