Northfield's Bailey DuPay got a hug from her coach after performing on the uneven bars during the Class 2A gymnastics state meet. (Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune)
With seven state championships to her credit before Saturday night — four as a gymnast, three as a diver — Northfield’s Bailey DuPay wears pressure like a favorite pair of jeans.
Going into the individual competition at the Class 2A gymnastics state meet, there were a number of worthy challengers to DuPay’s 2013 Class 2A all-around title. Brainerd’s Beth Etterman — like DuPay, an elite diver as well — won the vault in her first state meet. Winona seventh-grader Halle Remlinger, who competed in the same rotation as DuPay, placed second with a 38.65 all-around.
But it was DuPay’s night. Starting the meet with a 9.725 on the vault, DuPay’s precision and body control set her apart. She won her second consecutive Class 2A all-around crown with a score of 39.075, finishing with a flourish in the floor exercise, scoring 9.775 with every eye in the Sports Pavilion trained on her.
“She just has fun,” said Northfield co-coach Paul Bernhard. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her shake.”
DuPay finished either first or second in every event, also winning the uneven bars and balance beam and taking second in the vault.
With four more championships running DuPay’s number of state titles, both team and individual, to 11, Paul Bernhard said what many have long thought.
“I think she’s the best natural athlete the state has ever seen,” he said.
Remlinger made a pitch as possibly the state’s next great gymnast, not only with her all-around finish but with a tumbling pass in the floor exercise that wowed. Her full-in double-back — a double backflip with a twist — was a first in state tournament history.
“That was incredible,” said MSHSL media steward and gymnastics aficionado Amy Doherty. “That’s never been done at the state meet before. That’s beyond college level.”
Sela Fadness of Austin took a risk on the balance beam, her least favorite event, knowing it would make or break her chance of repeating as the Class 1A all-around champion.
Fadness had added a rare back handspring layout to her routine Saturday. She nailed it and allowed herself a brief mid-routine smile. She knew she had just overcome her biggest hurdle. It was just a matter of closing everything out.
“I smiled, and I almost never smile,” Fadness said. “I told myself ‘Yes, now I’ve got to finish it’.”
She did, jumping for joy twice after the event. Her score of 9.675 was not only enough to win the event, it propelled Fadness to her second consecutive all-around championship. She added championships in the vault and the floor exercise, leading to a career-high all-around score of 38.7, enough to outduel Melrose’s Jailyn Brinkman, who was second with a 38.325.
Brinkman, who led Melrose to the 1A team championship Friday, added the uneven bars championship with a score of 9.65.
Victories and scores make news, but perhaps the toughest gymnast was Martin County West senior Rebecca Steen.
Steen broke the C7 vertebrae in her neck on a fall off the uneven bars in December. For most gymnasts, that would be enough to end a career. For Steen, it was simply an obstacle.
She came back in early February and not only led the team to state, she won the vault and qualified for the all-around competition. She didn’t win, but that’s beside the point. The fact that she was able to compete at all was remarkable.
“I was just really glad to get the chance to come back,” Steen said. “It was disappointing, but I think when I look back, I’ll be able to appreciate what we accomplished.”
Kyle Steinberg contributed to this report.