Rockford selects Trystin Gruber as Athena Award winner

By David Pedersen

Crow River News

Trystin Gruber was named the Athena Award winner as a female athlete at Rockford High School. (Submitted photo)
Trystin Gruber was named the Athena Award winner as a female athlete at Rockford High School. (Submitted photo)

Trystin Gruber of Rockford will be one of 55 Athena Award winners at the 45th annual Minneapolis area event Friday, May 5 at the Doubletree Hotel in Bloomington.

Schools select its top female athlete based on athletics, academics and community involvement.

While many of the Athena athletes will list achievements in three sports, Gruber concentrated on one sport. Not only did she serve as a captain of Rockford’s dance team the past four years, she also earned All-State honors at four state jazz team tournaments.

What stands out about the achievement is these were the first four years for the program at Rockford.

Plus, the A Honor roll student took advantage of the post-secondary enrollment option where students take college classes. The last two years Gruber was a full time student at St. Cloud State University. She would come back to Rockford for practice and meets were on Saturdays.

“After high school I plan to continue my education at St. Cloud State and major in nursing with early acceptance into the program,” says Gruber. “After high school I did not think I would continue being a part of a sports team mainly because I never thought I could be good enough. But after a lot of thought I have decided to either find a coaching job with a dance team or trying out for the SCSU dance team.”

When young, Gruber took dance classes at the Dance Studio in Rockford and also took gymnastics classes at North Shore Gymnastics Association.

“I always loved to dance, so when Jenna Quick started the program at Rockford my mom signed me up and I had a great time,” recalls Gruber. “It was the first time I felt I really found my place on a team. I did do volleyball my seventh and eighth grade years but I had more friends on the fall dance team.”

Being voted by peers as dance team captain in ninth grade was a real surprise to Gruber since there were four older girls. She was voted captain the next three seasons as well.

Gruber adds, “At every dance competition before we would compete I would be the team hype-man and make chants to pump up the team.”

Sisters Kaylin and Trystin Gruber helped Rockford’s jazz dance team advance to the state tournament for a fourth straight season. (Submitted photo)
Sisters Kaylin and Trystin Gruber helped Rockford’s jazz dance team advance to the state tournament for a fourth straight season. (Submitted photo)

Despite being a new dance team program, Rockford qualified for state its first four years, making the finals twice.

“It makes me so proud of this team and all the girls I got to share the experience with,” says Gruber, who competed alongside her sister Kaylin. “The dance team owes all of its success to Heather Holasek. She truly is an amazing coach and person. She knows how to make a routine where every dancer, no matter the skill level, has a chance to shine.”

Gruber said that almost every year at state the team would receive one 10 in execution, which is extremely hard to do. She adds, “What makes a good dance team dancer is passion: passion for the sport and passion for the team.”

Being on both the kick and jazz teams, Gruber would practice five days a week for roughly three hours a day, sometimes longer.

Somehow, Gruber found time to be a 4-H member, a certified nursing assistant and animal humane society volunteer.

She also was involved in another unique sport.

As a competitive horseback rider, Gruber enters shows mainly in the Western Saddle Club Association the past five years. She goes through obstacle courses timed for speed.

Gruber’s biggest accomplishment was during the 2014 WSCA championship show when she placed third out of around 100 riders in the pennant race. This race is where a barrel is set at the end of the arena with a bucket on top and a flag in the bucket.

The rider also has a flag and must run down to the barrel and switch the flags then come back without dropping the flag or tipping the barrel. Gruber finished in about seven seconds on her quarter horse named Jazz.