Gymnasts hit stride at end of season
Entering the season, Wendi Hartig was counting on her five returning letterwinners to lead the Park Rapids gymnastics team.
As it turned out, those five veterans didn't compete in the same meet all season.
Junior Emily Klingenberg was the only member of that group who competed in all 12 meets. Sophomore Jessi Andersen missed four meets with a wrist injury. Freshman Cassie Baxter competed in eight meets. Freshman Ellen Hoffman missed the entire season with a broken foot. Eighth grader Lauren Rossman competed in 11 meets.
Despite not having their best lineup all season, the Panthers showed improvement all winter. Park Rapids peaked at the end of the season by posting their two highest team scores in the final four meets.
"The season went really well," said Hartig, whose team went 1-8 in dual meets. "We didn't have our full varsity team all season, but we accomplished a lot of goals. A lot of junior varsity girls had opportunities to compete on varsity and did really well. The girls showed a lot of improvement."
The Panthers opened the season with losses to Bemidji (126.00 to 97.85), Little Falls (128.225 to 94.45) and Detroit Lakes (139.05 to 102.90).
A 111.70 team score led to a third-place finish at the five-team Park Rapids Invitational. Little Falls took first with a 132.70.
After dropping a 147.20 to 101.30 dual to Perham, the Panthers picked up their first victory of the season by topping Frazee 99.425 to 99.30.
Park Rapids ended the dual season with losses to Frazee (101.975 to 100.045), Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (117.825 to 98.55), Bemidji (128.50 to 111.80) and Detroit Lakes (141.925 to 108.00).
At the Mid-State Conference meet, the Panthers hit a season high with a 112.90. Perham won its ninth conference title in a row with a 149.60.
The Panthers concluded the season by placing sixth at the seven-team Section 8A meet with a 109.125. Perham tallied a 148.688 to win the section title for the ninth year in a row. The Yellowjackets, who were rated No. 1 in the final state Class A poll, went on to win their eighth straight state Class A title. Detroit Lakes ended the season rated No. 7 while Little Falls was rated No. 18 among Class A teams.
For the season, the Panthers had a team average of 104.00 with averages of 32.18 on vault, 25.13 on balance beam, 24.66 in floor exercise and 22.04 on uneven parallel bars. Park Rapids' high marks in those events were 33.65 in vault, 29.50 on beam, 28.325 in floor and 24.55 on bars. The Panthers also received a Silver academic award.
Leading the Panthers this season were the four returning letterwinners.
Klingenberg and Andersen shared the team's Most Valuable Gymnast honor after being the Panthers' top all-around performers all season. Those two also shared the team's Most Dedicated Gymnast award.
Klingenberg finished second on the team with a 29.08 all-around average and led the team with a high all-around score of 30.40. Klingenberg had the team's top averages on beam with a 7.26, in floor with a 6.91, on bars with a 6.68 and shared the team's top average in vault with an 8.28. Klingenberg had the highest scores in vault (8.50) and on beam (8.50) while posting high marks of 7.45 in floor and 6.90 on bars. Klingenberg received all-conference and all-conference academic honors and concluded the season by placing 13th in vault, 20th on bars, 22nd on beam, 25th in floor and 18th in all-around at the section meet.
Andersen had the Panthers' highest all-around average at 29.46 and was second with a season-best 30.20 all-around score. Andersen led the Panthers with a 7.44 average in floor with a high of 8.05 and shared the team's high average in vault with an 8.25 with a high of 8.40, which was the second-highest mark on the team. Andersen also was second on bars with a 6.53 average and on beam with a 7.21 average. Andersen had the team's highest score of the season on bars with a 7.70 and was third on beam with a 7.80. Andersen, who was an all-conference honorable mention selection, ended the season by placing 17th in floor, 19th in vault, 20th on beam, 21st on bars and 14th in all-around at the section meet.
Baxter received all-conference honors after being the Panthers' No. 3 all-arounder with a 26.06 average and a high of 26.70. Baxter had the team's No. 3 average on bars with a 6.33, on beam with a 5.82, in floor with a 6.57 and in vault with an 8.00. Baxter's high marks were 8.25 in vault, 7.025 on bars, 7.00 in floor and 5.40 on beam.
Rossman was third on the team on beam with a 6.75 average and was second with a season high of 7.95. Rossman led the Panthers by placing 19th on beam at the section meet and received all-conference honorable mention honors.
Injuries provided opportunities for 12 other gymnasts to compete on varsity. That group featured juniors Kaity Darchuk and Jessie Petrie; sophomore Tiffany Hansen; freshmen Taylor Drury, Savannah Gatewood and Kayla Johnk; eighth graders Kendra Anderson, Sarena Kinkel, Amy Klein and Kylee Roy; and seventh graders Kayla Andersen and Sarah Harshman.
Johnk competed as an all-around gymnast in seven varsity meets, ending the season with a 21.15 average and a high of 22.25. Johnk had averages of 7.63 in vault, 5.60 in floor, 4.13 on beam and 3.69 on bars with highs of 7.90 in vault, 6.375 in floor, 4.75 on bars and 4.45 on beam. At the section meet, Johnk finished 28th in vault and 32nd in floor. Johnk received the team's Most Spirited award and Best Attitude award.
Kinkel ended the season by competing in the section meet in three events, placing 27th in vault, 28th on beam and 29th on bars. In seven varsity appearances, Kinkel had a 7.98 average in vault with a high of 7.90, a 6.13 average on beam with a high of 6.25 and a 4.28 average on bars with a high of 5.20. Kinkel shared the team's Most Improved Gymnast honor.
Kayla Andersen competed in the section meet in floor (finishing 30th), on beam (placing 32nd) and on bars (placing 32nd). In varsity meets, Andersen had averages of 6.18 in floor (with a high of 7.15) and 4.93 on beam (with a high of 8.58). Andersen also had a 7.70 in vault and a 3.325 on bars in her only varsity appearances in those events. Andersen, who competed in at least one event in eight varsity meets, shared the team's Most Improved Gymnast award.
Gatewood placed 29th in floor at the section meet and had a 6.24 average with a high of 7.00 in that event. Gatewood, who competed varsity in floor in eight meets, also received a 3.80 on beam in her only varsity appearance. Gatewood shared the team's Most Spirited award.
Klein placed 31st with a 3.75 on bars at the section meet in her only varsity appearance in that event. Klein also had scores of 7.60 in vault, 6.05 in floor and 5.00 on beam in her only other varsity appearance. Klein received the team's Best Attitude award.
Harshman rounded out the Panthers' section team in vault, finishing 30th. In seven varsity meets, Harshman had a 7.60 average with a high of 7.85.
Hansen was also named one of the Panthers' Most Dedicated Gymnasts after tallying averages of 6.18 in floor (with a high of 6.625) and 3.79 on bars (with a high of 4.05) in three varsity meets. In her only varsity appearance in all-around, Hansen had a 7.60 in vault, a 4.25 on beam and a 21.90 in all-around.
Darchuk made three varsity appearances in vault, averaging a 7.97 (with a high of 8.00) and competed on varsity on beam twice (with a 5.10 average) and on bars twice (with a 3.70 average).
Petrie was a varsity competitor in vault five times (averaging a 7.79 with a high of 8.20), on bars six times (with a 4.35 average and a high of 5.00) and in floor once (earning a 6.10).
Also seeing some varsity action were Drury (4.05 on bars), Anderson (5.35 on beam) and Roy (3.35 average in two meets).
Looking ahead to next season, the Panthers will return their entire squad. The year of experience gained this season and some practice in the summer should lead to more improvement next winter.
"The girls will have a lot of opportunities with classes and camps this summer to improve their skills," said Hartig. "If we stay healthy, we should be able to bump up our scores and be more competitive next year."