BY DAVE PEDERSEN
After proving they belonged at the state tournament, gymnasts from Rockford and Delano are back in the fold seeking more success this season.
Delano represented Section 5 at last year’s State Class AA tournament, when the score of 139.250 was a season high. Andi Joe Shrode became the first Delano gymnast to stand on the state awards podium after placing sixth individually on balance beam.
Delano was a team primarily made up of all-arounders working all four events. That means the graduation of Shrode and Anna Wischmann puts a big hole in the lineup. However, the cupboard is not empty.
Back on varsity for a fourth season is senior Amelia Sutherland, who finished ninth at state on beam at 9.387. Also returning after getting state meet experience are junior Alexus Aguirre and sophomore Cassie Moe. Captains are Sutherland, Moe and senior Cassidy Gilmore.
Coach Jamie Greenberg adds, “We have a very young team and we are not sure who will be filling spots.”
The Tigers open the season at Waconia, 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, before entering the Maple Lake Invitational, 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. The first home meet is not until Jan. 9 against Mound-Westonka.
Rockford qualified two gymnasts to the state meet. Brianna Schumacher, who graduated, placed 29th on the uneven bars. Mikayla Erickson, who returns for her senior season, had a fall on balance beam and still posted a score of 8.525 to place 27th. Erickson will serve as varsity captain for a fourth time. She will work on vault, balance beam and floor exercise. Her father Mike joined the team last year as co-head coach along with Jessica Johnson.
Senior captain Amber Sahli is an all-arounder. Also capable of working all four events are junior Madison Bartlett, ninth-graders Rachel Selly and Skylar Young, plus eighth-grader Heidi Trandahl. Senior Danielle Patnode will work vault, beam and floor.
Promising newcomers are eighth-graders Julia Dalluge and Jamalyn Weege Soland. Some gymnasts will alternate between varsity and junior varsity since only five perform on each event at meets.
Joining the team are three seniors, including Mariah Givens and two foreign exchange students. Adriane Klaus is from Germany and Yue Zhang is from Italy.
“This season is looking great,” says Johnson. “We are in our new gymnastics facility at the Rockford Middle School. We are very excited about our numbers this year, increasing to 24. The atmosphere in the gym is great due to the leadership by Amber and Mikayla.”
Johnson says the new gym allows more time on events like the uneven bars, which has been a weak event in the past. Now the team has two full sets of bars and also a single rail bar over the in-floor pit. The facility has other new pieces of equipment to improve tumbling, vaulting and beam skills.
“We have grown a lot over the past couple years,” notes Johnson. “We graduated only two from last year and added several new gymnasts. As a whole, we just hope to improve from one meet to the next, as we have done over the past three years.”
The first meet in the new facility is against Watertown-Mayer, 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5. Rockford enters the Byron Invitational starting at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. Another home meet is against Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted-Lester Prairie, Tuesday, Dec. 10.