Gymnastics: Halle Landstrom fulfills goal by qualifying for state

The Park Rapids senior advances in floor exercise and vault.

Park Rapids senior Halle Landstrom qualified for the state Class A gymnastics meet in vault and floor exercise during the Section 8A meet at Fergus Falls on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

FERGUS FALLS – Halle Landstrom fulfilled a major goal while also ending a long drought for the Park Rapids-Nevis gymnastics team.

The Park Rapids senior qualified for the state Class A meet in two events during the Section 8A meet on Saturday, Feb. 18. Landstrom tied for fourth place in floor exercise with a 9.175 and tied for fifth place in vault with a 9.20.

Those finishes gave the Panthers their first state qualifier since Micah Richards advanced on balance beam in 2009. Ending that drought was a primary goal for Landstrom this season.

“Making it to state has been my No. 1 and ultimate focus this entire season and a very important goal of my entire high school career. I wanted to end my gymnastics career with a bang and have this last season be my best, so state was a very important and meaningful goal for me,” said Landstrom, who broke the school record in both events with a 9.50 in floor and a 9.425 in vault earlier this season. “Throughout the season, I felt that qualifying to state was a very attainable goal for me. I have had more confidence in myself this entire season than I ever have in previous seasons. Being the first gymnast since 2009 to qualify to the state meet feels truly remarkable and very rewarding. The hard work and dedication I have put in throughout the entire season was proven worth it when the announcer said my name while announcing the 2023 state qualifiers.”

“It's been 14 years since we've had a gymnast qualify for state. Sending a gymnast to state again is a huge step for our program. Hopefully it encourages the community to continue to help our program grow so that we can send many more girls to state in the future,” said Park Rapids-Nevis head coach Katie Eischens. “Section 8A is one of the most competitive sections in the state with Detroit Lakes and Melrose currently being ranked in the top three teams in the state and Perham having the record number of consecutive state championships under their belt. So having an athlete from Park Rapids make it to state is an especially big feat as most years Section 8A is only represented by those three teams. She hit a solid floor routine and vault to solidify her spot among the top gymnasts from our area.”


Landstrom started the section meet on floor and turned in a solid score. The Panthers’ second rotation was in vault where Landstrom turned in another strong performance by sticking her second attempt.

Even with those efforts, Landstrom wasn’t sure her scores were good enough to earn a state trip.

“Going into the section meet, I was most confident on the floor. I haven't changed my floor passes or routine all season, so I continued telling myself ‘I've done this before, same routine as practice, same routine as last meet.’ I wanted to keep my entire routine clean and very entertaining to watch in hopes of scoring a 9.2 or above because I didn't think anything below that would qualify me. I'm not going to lie. When I saw my routine had only scored a 9.175, I panicked a little because I wasn't sure that was enough to qualify me to state,” said Landstrom. “I was very confident in my execution on the floor after completing my routine, even with the lower score than I had hoped, but I can't say the same for vault. After falling on my first vault, I was kind of freaking out because I was so in my head and the odds for state were feeling against me. I don't think there was any better feeling than landing upright to stick my second vault and hearing Coach Matt (Backmann) yell and fist bump the air then run up to me.”

“Entering the section meet, I knew that Halle had a really good chance of qualifying to state on vault and floor. She had been scoring similar to some of the other top gymnasts from our section, so I knew that her qualifying could go either way depending on how she and everyone else performed,” said Eischens. “She was a little nervous headed into the meet and was also nervous after her floor score came back a little bit lower than what she was hoping for. With vault and floor being the first two events, there were still several teams to compete in those events after us, so we tried to loosely keep track of the other athlete's scores. With that we were able to tell approximately how many athletes scored higher than her and we knew that it was going to be close.”

Detroit Lakes’ Jerzie Horner captured the section title in vault with a 9.75 with Perham/New York Mills’ Avery McAllister taking second with a 9.65 and Detroit Lakes’ Gabby Whitworth placing third with a 9.60. Detroit Lakes’ Elsie Ratz was fourth with a 9.50 and Melrose’s Courtney Althaus tied Landstrom for fifth at 9.20. The top 3 gymnasts in each event who didn’t qualify as an all-around gymnast earned spots in the state tournament. When Whitworth, Horner and Althaus claimed the top all-around spots, Landstrom joined McAllister and Ratz as state qualifiers.

The same scenario occurred on floor where Whitworth took first with a 9.50, Althaus was second with a 9.40 and Taves finished third with a 9.20. Landstrom tied McAllister with a 9.175 while Horner was sixth with a 9.15. Taves and McAllister joined Landstrom as the three qualifiers who didn’t advance as all-arounders.

After waiting to see if her scores would hold up, Landstrom was able to celebrate after earning her first state berths.

“Qualifying to the state meet, especially in two events, felt like a dream come true. The past two weeks building up to sections were very pressure filled and a super stressful time for me,” said Landstrom. “Hearing my name truly made it all so real for me. I felt relieved, like all the time and work I had put into this sport had truly paid off and I actually reached the goal I set for myself in 9th grade. The support my teammates, parents, Panther fans and the other teams showed for me really made the moment very memorable and emotional.”


“The fact that Halle made it to state on vault is especially impressive as she isn't able to practice her vault in Park Rapids. The way our practice gym is set up, it is unsafe for her to do a flipping vault, so she has to travel to another gym in order to practice that event. Due to weather, the meet schedule and school, most weeks she only got to do her vault once when times allowed her to travel to Perham. With doing less than 10 vaults a week she still managed to easily break the school record and prove herself as one of the top gymnasts in the state,” said Eischens. “Halle is very dedicated to the sport of gymnastics and has spent years training with coach Sith Hansana and the athletes in Detroit Lakes and Perham, so when her name was announced as a state qualifier, the cheering erupted not only from the Park Rapids athletes and fans, but also from all of her supporters in Detroit Lakes and Perham. It has been amazing seeing the other teams in our section and state rally around and support Halle and all the other girls on our team. The high school gymnastics community is an amazing group to be a part of.”

Working to improve her skills paved the way for Landstrom to earn her first trip to the state meet.

“This season, I focused more on details and cleaning up my routine than any previous season. I realized the importance of every minor detail and how much each little mistake can cost your score overall. The small details definitely matter,” said Landstrom. “I also focused more on the thought of being alone at the event, instead of getting sidetracked and thinking about everyone who is watching me. I focused more on myself and my own gymnastics. Using these two tactics overall helped me gain bigger and better skills and more confidence in my routines.”

“I think one of the areas that Halle improved on the most this year was in her attitude and maturity. She really stepped up a lot and became a great leader for all of the younger athletes. Along with her maturity came an increase in confidence and resiliency. She really got to know her mind and body and knew when to push herself and when to take it a little easier, and she was able to push past mistakes or letdowns without them affecting her too much,” said Eischens. “She knew she had a chance to go to state, so she focused on the details and did as much as she could to maximize her scores.”

Landstrom will look to cap off a successful season when she makes her state debut at the Class A meet, which begins at 6 p.m. at St. Paul’s Roy Wilkins Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 25.

“I don't have any expectations for her state meet score or placement wise. I'm just so proud of her for making it to state and want her to enjoy the experience,” said Eischens. “My hopes are that she leaves the meet, and her gymnastics career, feeling accomplished and proud of herself.”

“For state, I would like to compete the best I can and have fun. I'm hoping to clean up my floor and vault and remove any mistakes so I can train them to perfection. But it’s most important to me to just have a good and fun last meet,” said Landstrom. “I am looking forward to the state meet and am honored to be the first gymnast in 14 years to qualify.”

Panthers place 6th

In addition to qualifying for state, Landstrom helped the Panthers place sixth in the team standings with 127.125 points. Detroit Lakes won the section title with 147.125 points.


The Panthers’ best event was vault where Morgan Koppelman’s 8.50, Emma Berghuis’ 8.30 and a pair of 8.05s by Natalie Berghuis and Grace Officer rounded out a 34.05 team score.

Following Landstrom for a 32.725 team score on floor were Koppelman’s 8.35, Officer’s 7.80 and Emma Berghuis’ 7.40. Erin Hansen added a 6.15.

On balance beam, the Panthers received a 30.525 behind Landstrom’s 8.775, Koppelman’s 8.55, Natalie Berghuis’ 7.05 and Emma Berghuis’ 6.15. Emily Lindow had a 5.85. McAllister took first with a 9.55.

Morgan Koppelman led the Panthers on uneven parallel bars with an 8.05 at the Section 8A meet on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

Koppelman led the Panthers on uneven parallel bars with an 8.05. Landstrom’s 7.90, Officer’s 7.15 and Laney Vrieze’s 6.725 completed Park Rapids-Nevis’ 29.825 team score in that event, which was a season high. Emma Berghuis added a 6.475. Horner was the section champion with a 9.50.

Landstrom tied for sixth in all-around with a 35.05. Koppelman was 11th with a 33.45 and Emma Berghuis placed 20th with a 28.325. Whitworth captured the all-around title with a 37.65 while Horner was the runner-up with a 37.30 and Althaus placed third with a 37.125. Those three qualified for state as all-arounders.

Erin Hansen performs her floor exercise routine during the Section 8A meet at Fergus Falls on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023.
Jared Rubado / Forum News Service

The Lakers tallied a season high team score in repeating as section champs to earn their 11th overall trip to state, including their seventh in the last nine years. Following Detroit Lakes in the team standings were Melrose (143.00), Perham/New York Mills (136.90), Fergus Falls (135.925) and Little Falls (127.525). Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville rounded out the seven-team field with a 98.325. Detroit Lakes was rated No. 2 in the state Class A poll with a 144.425 average. Also listed in the state poll were Melrose at No. 3 (143.067), Perham at No. 14 (134.95) and Fergus Falls at No. 18 (134.35).

“Overall, the girls performed fairly well at sections,” said Eischens. “Several of the girls were battling injuries and/or illness, but we still managed to get one of our top 5 team scores of the season. As a team, bars was our best scoring event. Laney, Emma and Grace all added new skills to their bar routines, helping lead to a season high team score.”

Team scores: Detroit Lakes 147.125, Melrose 143.00, Perham/New York Mills 136.90, Fergus Falls 135.925, Little Falls 127.525, Park Rapids-Nevis 127.125, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville 98.325.

Vault: 1, Horner, DL, 9.75. 2, McAllister, PNYM, 9.65. 3, Whitworth, DL, 8.60. 4, Ratz, DL, 9.50. 5 (tie), Landstrom, PRN, and Althaus, M, 9.20. 22, Koppelman, PRN, 8.50. 28, E. Berghuis, PRN, 8.30. 29 (tie), N. Berghuis, PRN, and Officer, PRN, 8.05.

Floor exercise: 1, Whitworth, DL, 8.50. 2, Althaus, M, 9.40. 3, Taves, DL, 9.20. 4 (tie), Landstrom, PRN, and McAllister, PNYM, 9.175. 6, Horner, DL, 9.15. 18, Koppelman, PRN, 8.35. 27, Officer, PRN, 7.80. 31, E. Berghuis, PRN, 7.40. 34, Hansen, PRN, 6.15.

Balance beam: 1, McAllister, PNYM, 9.55. 2, Whitworth, DL, 9.40. 3, Althaus, M, 9.325. 4, Evesiage, M, 9.225. 5, Taves, DL, 9.05. 6 (tie), Hinnenkamp, M, and Ratz, DL, 9.00. 12, Landstrom, PRN, 9.775. 14 (tie), Koppelman, PRN, 8.55. 26, N. Berghuis, PRN, 7.05. 30, E. Berghuis, PRN, 6.15. 31, Lindow, PRN, 5.85.

Uneven parallel bars: 1, Horner, DL, 9.50. 2, Althaus, M, 9.20. 3, Whitworth, DL, 9.15. 4 (tie), Hinnenkamp, M, Morrison, DL, and Hausten, DL, 8.60. 16, Koppelman, PRN, 8.05. 17, Landstrom, PRN, 7.90. 26, Officer, PRN, 7.15. 28, Vrieze, PRN, 6.725. 29, E. Berghuis, PRN, 6.475.

All-around: 1, Whitworth, DL, 37.65. 2, Horner, DL, 37.30. 3, Althaus, M, 37.125. 4, McAllister, PNYM, 36.80. 5, Taves, DL, 35.625. 6 (tie), Landstrom, PRN, and Hinnenkamp, M, 35.05. 11, Koppelman, PRN, 33.45. 20, E. Berghuis, PRN, 28.325.

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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