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Posted by Guest (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/22/2013 5:37:12 PM

By Luke Sleeper
John’s Journal Correspondent

From the very beginning of Friday’s Class 1A team competition at the state gymnastics meet, fate seemed to be on New Prague’s side. It’s only been a little over two months since the death of Trojans head coach Matt Shetka, who died from a heart attack.

Shetka’s presence was surely felt by the New Prague gymnasts all day; their parents and fans came in full force, adorned in black t-shirts honoring the former coach.

On the way to its fourth team championship since 1975, New Prague had to fight off defending champion Melrose. The two teams were neck-and-neck throughout the meet, almost literally – they followed the same event schedule. Through two rotations, the Trojans had a slim 1.05-point lead on the defending champs.

In the end it all came down to the competition’s final event for each team, the balance beam. What followed was a record-breaking, tear-shedding performance from New Prague. Trojan gymnasts Marissa Ekness, Sarah Hoffman and the sister duo of Jaimie and Jessica Niedermayer all turned in scores of 9.4 or better on the beam, breaking the Class 1A state tourney record for the event with a total score of 37.9. The mark was previously held by Perham.

About halfway through their record-breaking performance, a wave of emotion came over the Trojans gymnasts and coaches. Assistant coach Nikki Fischer appeared teary-eyed when greeting the competing gymnast after each performance. Head coach Doug Amundsen could barely stand to watch the routines, wincing and then exhaling in relief with every attempted landing that proved triumphant. With a beam performance that was as emotional as it was successful, New Prague all but wrapped up the team title.

Third-place Austin ended its day with a score of 146.425, a few points behind the winners. Austin features one of the favorites for the all-around title, Sela Fadness, who scored a combined 37.950 Friday. Fadness and her teammates had the highest floor exercise event of the day meet, combining for a score of 38.175.

Melrose defended its title valiantly. Led by Jailyn Brinkman and Lydia Butkowski, Melrose finished the day with a second-place total score of 147.9. The individual highlight may have been Brinkman, who is also a favorite to win the all-around, scoring a 9.725 on the uneven bars.

New Prague won its title with a score of 149.6. The depth of the foursome of Brianna Ellanson, Hoffman and the Niedermayer sisters proved to be too much for the competition, turning in strong scores in each of the four events. Key contributions from Ekness, Bridget Ellanson, Sydney Samson, Ashley Nerud and Meghan Dubanoski boosted the Trojan championship effort, as well.

In a season that has caused the New Prague gymnastics team so much sadness, a day like Friday was most certainly bittersweet, but all the more satisfying; the Trojans got to dedicate their season and now their championship to their beloved former coach.

--Roseville makes late, great comeback to win 2A title

The Roseville gymnastics team is used to being at the U of M Sports Pavilion this time of year. Winner of five of the last seven Class 2A team competitions, no wonder the Raiders took somewhat of a casual start to their 2013 meet Friday night. Along with fellow pre-meet favorite Northfield, the two gymnastics powerhouses struggled early on, facing the very difficult balance beam as their first event. A couple of falls and a few other close calls and the door soon opened for a new team to take gold.

For much of the meet, it seemed like that team would be St. Cloud Tech. After taking care of business with the two most daunting events – uneven bars and the beam – the Tigers were seemingly in the driver’s seat as the favorites faltered. Mariah Miller, the Section 8AA all-around champ, led the way for Tech as her team took a slim lead into the final rotation. But even with a strong finish on the vault, the Tigers ran into the gale force that is the Roseville uneven bars performances.

Northfield had a very strong finish on the bars, as well, squeezing itself right in between third-place Tech and champion Roseville. Even with a rough go on the balance beam, Northfield put up strong numbers in the other three events, including a very good 38.075 on the uneven bars. All-around frontrunner Bailey DuPay did the heavy lifting for the Raiders, putting up a gold-worthy 9.850 on the bars, 9.6 on the vault, and 9.650 in the floor exercise. Big performances by Christy Anderson and Abby Stets helped propel the Raiders to their second-place finish.

At about 8:30 p.m. the Sports Pavilion erupted with raucous cheering for Roseville as they went through their strongest event, a sign that the defending champions had finally arrived. Gymnast after gymnast, the place got louder, and Roseville coach Julie Castellano’s trademark intensity amped up with every powerful stick of the mat. Carly Wagner, Emily VanKrevlen, Kaylee Streker, and Isis Muller each turned in scores of 9.45 or above to put an exclamation mark on their sixth title in the last eight years. Their winning score was 149.7


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