Gymnasts continued to reach new heights

The Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis gymnastics team received high marks during successful season.

HalleLandstrom (1).JPG
Halle Landstrom was the Panthers' top all-around performer with a 33.00 average in 11 meets this season, including an 8.70 average in floor exercise. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

After making major improvements last season, the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis gymnastics team continued to reach new heights this season.

The Panthers broke the school record in vault, had their highest mark on balance beam since the 2008-09 season, posted their highest team score since 2003 and earned their highest mark in floor exercise since the 1997-98 season.

“I think our season was extremely successful. I am beyond proud of this team. First and foremost, I felt like the girls really functioned as a team this year. We were a strong unified group who worked hard, stuck together and held each other accountable,” said Panthers’ head coach Cyrus Gust, who was assisted by Matt Backmann and Katie Eischens. “My assistant coaches and managers pitched in and helped in huge ways, my veteran gymnasts continued to hone their skills as well as provide valuable leadership to the younger gymnasts, and my rookies stepped up, worked hard and were willing to try new and difficult things. As a result of all this, we were able to continue to improve our meet average from last year and hit skills and scores we haven't seen in years. I also believe the success we had this season is reflective of the progress we have made as an entire program, from our tiny tot classes all the way up to our high school team.”

After opening the season with a 138.25-119.30 loss to Detroit Lakes and placing fourth at the five-team Morris Invitational with a 115.50 (Benson took first with a 132.35), the Panthers defeated Detroit Lakes’ JV team 117.80-114.15 and Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 118.55-92.25.

At the Park Rapids Invitational, Alexandria won the team title with a 132.45 as the Panthers finished third out of five teams with a 119.85. Park Rapids then led a three-team field to win the White Division title at the Moorhead Invitational with a 127.40. That was the Panthers’ highest team score since receiving a 128.40 at the 2003 Section 8A meet.


The Panthers ended the regular season with losses to Perham (139.70-120.30), Bemidji (141.45-122.425), Detroit Lakes (139.60-120.20) and Bemidji (144.85-122.15). That gave Park Rapids a 2-5 record in dual meets.

At the Section 8A meet, the Panthers placed sixth in the eight-team field with a 124.45. Perham claimed the section title with a 145.875 to edge out Melrose’s 145.075 and Detroit Lakes’ 144.15. Fergus Falls was fourth with a 130.35 and Little Falls took fifth with a 125.925. Following the Panthers were Morris Area with a 117.80 and Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville with a 92.875.

Perham entered the section meet rated No. 2 in the state Class A poll with a 145.458 average while Melrose was No. 3 at 145.275. Detroit Lakes was rated No. 9 at 142.542 and Fergus Falls was ranked No. 25 at 132.80. Defending champion Detroit Lakes had won the previous six Section 8A titles and the last five state Class A titles.

Big Lake, which entered the state Class A meet rated No. 1 in the state with a 146.575 average, won the state title with a 146.825 while Perham was second with a 144.925.

Leading the Panthers this season were junior Abby Kirlin; sophomore Ally Holmer; freshmen Natalie Backmann, Morgan Koppelman, Halle Landstrom and Jordyn Novak; and seventh graders Emma Berghuis, Natalie Berghuis, Shailyn Hayes and Erica Johnson. Kirlin, Landstrom Koppelman served as captains.

Nine of those gymnasts competed at the section meet with Landstrom placing 10th and Koppelman placing 14th in all-around. Landstrom finished 11th in floor, tied for 12th on beam, placed 19th in vault and finished 21st on bars while Koppelman was 18th in vault, 21st in floor, 23rd on bars and 27th on beam.

Kirlin led the Panthers to a new record of 35.375 in vault by placing 10th. Natalie Berghuis (15th) and Novak (35th) also competed in vault. The old school record (after vaulting scores were revised in 1992) was a 35.20 in 1996.

Also competing in floor were Johnson (30th), Hayes (31st) and Kirlin (34th) while Kirlin (22nd), Johnson (30th) and Hayes (31st) completed the Panthers’ beam team. Rounding out the bars unit were Johnson (28th), Holmer (32nd) and Backmann (34th). Park Rapids posted scores of 32.05 in floor, 29.975 on beam and 27.05 on bars.


For the season, the Panthers had averages of 33.47 in vault, 30.94 in floor, 29.07 on beam and 27.24 on bars with a team average of 120.72. In addition to the record-setting vault score, the Panthers had season highs of 33.80 in floor, 31.90 on beam and 28.70 on bars. The score in floor was the highest since a 34.45 during the 1997-98 season and the score on beam was the best since a 32.45 during the 2008-09 campaign.

Landstrom was the team’s top all-around performer with a 33.00 average and a high of 34.70. In 11 meets, Landstrom had averages of 8.74 in vault (with a high of 8.90), 8.70 in floor (with a high of 9.35), 7.99 on beam (with a high of 8.60) and 7.56 on bars (with a high of 8.05).

Koppelman was second in all-around with a 31.06 average with a high of 32.50. Koppelman also competed in all 11 meets, posting averages of 8.39 in vault (with a high of 8.80), 8.01 in floor (with a high of 8.50), 7.40 on beam (with a high of 8.30) and 7.22 on bars (with a high of 7.50).

Johnson competed in all-around in four meets with a high of 27.90 and an average of 26.06. Johnson had a 6.08 average and a high of 7.00 in 11 meets on bars, a 6.87 average and a high of 7.85 in nine meets in floor, a 6.375 average with a high of 7.00 in six meets on beam and a 7.63 average with a high of 7.95 in five meets in vault.

Backmann was the Panthers’ other all-around performer, competing three times with a high of 26.55 and an average of 26.00. Backman competed in all 11 meets on bars with a high of 5.90 and an average of 5.23, was a member of the beam team in nine meets with a high of 7.90 and an average of 6.78 and a competitor in floor eight times with a high of 7.90 and an average of 6.67. Backmann also had a 7.63 average and a high of 7.70 in three varsity meets in vault.

Kirlin competed in 10 meets in both vault and floor, compiling an 8.24 average in vault with a high of 9.025 and a 7.29 average in floor with a high of 8.05. Kirlin also had a 6.87 average with a high of 8.00 in nine meets on beam.

Holmer was a varsity competitor on bars 10 times with a 6.29 average and a high of 7.00 while posting a 6.175 average and a high of 6.85 in two meets on beam.

Emma Berghuis competed in eight meets in vault with a high of 8.30 and an average of 7.92, Hayes had averages of 6.70 on beam (with a high of 7.30 in six meets) and 6.86 in floor (with a high of 7.45 in five meets), Novak posted an 8.04 average with a high of 8.25 in five meets in vault, and Natalie Berghuis had a 5.89 average with a high of 6.50 in three meets on beam.


Also seeing some varsity action were sophomores Chelsea Dennis and Valarie Tooker; freshman McKenzie Hagen; eighth grader Lauren Cunningham; and seventh graders Erin Hansen, Rachel Ulvin and Laney Vrieze. All of those gymnasts competed on varsity in various events once.

With that entire cast returning, Gust is counting on another successful season from his team next winter.

“Our younger gymnasts will use the experience gained this year to perfect their skills, I know my veterans are working hard to keep in shape in the off season, and they will take the lessons learned this season and become better leaders next year. And furthermore, I can attest that myself and my assistants have learned and grown as coaches this season,” said Gust. “I hope the community will continue to rally around us so we can build on this success, hopefully with a new facility in the near future. We came in with the youngest team I have ever coached. I think the upside to this team is tremendous and should be exciting to watch next year. Next season I expect our team to build on the success they had this year.”

Floor exercise: Landstrom 9.35, Koppelman 8.50, Kirlin 8.05, Backmann 7.90, Johnson 7.85, Hayes 7.45, Vrieze 6.65, Tooker 6.30, Dennis 6.10, Hansen 5.00.
Balance beam: Landstrom 8.60, Koppelman 8.30, Kirlin 8.00, Backmann 7.90, Hayes 7.30, Johnson 7.00, Holmer 6.85, N. Berghuis 6.50.
Uneven parallel bars: Landstrom 8.05, Koppelman 7.50, Johnson 7.00, Holmer 7.00, Backmann 5.90, Ulvin 5.60, Cunningham 4.10, Dennis 3.70.
Vault: Kirlin 9.025, Landstrom 8.90, N. Berghuis 8.85, Koppelman 8.80, E. Berghuis 8.30, Novak 8.25, Vrieze 8.20, Hagen 8.00, Johnson 7.95, Backmann 7.70, Tooker 7.60, Dennis 7.30.
All-around: Landstrom 34.70, Koppelman 32.50, Johnson 27.90, Backmann 26.55.

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
What To Read Next
Get Local