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Gymnastics 2021-22: Because of club comings and goings, surprises are built in

By JIM PAULSEN, Star Tribune, 12/16/21, 3:15PM CST


Among teams, there’s evidence Class 1A Watertown-Mayer/Mound-Westonka is the state’s best.

Anna Mielke is one of a couple of all-around reasons that Watertown-Mayer/Mound-Westonka stands out among gymnastics teams. JEFF LAWLER, SportsEngine

No high school sport includes more uncertainty at the start of the season than gymnastics.

What makes gymnastics so unpredictable? The gymnasts themselves.

Each year, the club gymnastics scene spits a few highly skilled competitors into the thick of the high school season. The reasons are many: Some are burned out, some hope to alleviate the pressure of the club gymnastics world, and others want to bond with classmates. Sometimes they’re looking for a return to gymnastics when it was simply fun, with no rigorous, lengthy practices.

Knowing exactly who those gymnasts will be is the tough part. Here’s one idea on how the season will play out. Check back in February to see if it made sense.
Back in a familiar place

COVID-19 concerns forced the state meet out of its usual haunts last year (Maturi Sports Pavilion at the University of Minnesota, Roy Wilkins Auditorium at St. Paul’s RiverCentre) and into Champlin Park High School.

It went off better than some expected, but this season the gymnastics state meet is set for Roy Wilkins Auditorium on Feb. 18-19.

Driscoll honored

After 43 years — has it really been that long? — Mahtomedi gymnastics coach Debbie Driscoll will be inducted into the MSHSL Hall of Fame. In her tenure at Mahtomedi, Driscoll has coached 10 team champions, seven individual all-around champions and 42 individual event winners.

One of her more successful gymnasts, Mindy Myhre, will also be inducted. Myhre won four straight Class 1A all-around championships from 1991 to 1994 and helped the Zephyrs win three team championships in a row.

Metro teams with a chance

In Class 2A, Stillwater and Wayzata look to have an inside track to success. Stillwater put up an impressive 143.05 team score in its season opener. The Ponies have strength up and down the roster, led by all-arounders Kendall Rogers, a senior, and Katelyn McDowell, a sophomore. Wayzata added to its deep roster, which includes state meet qualifiers Sasha Arne, Tatum Bohlsen and Izzy Hayden, with three transfers from club, led by seventh-grader Ashley Mouyenga. She’s a Level 10 talent, the highest rung in USA Gymnastics’ Junior Olympic program.

New Prague added talented club performers Bella Pressnall and Alison Malecha, and Lakeville North has senior Kaitlyn Nguyen, the highest returning 2A competitor from 2021. Hopkins has veteran leadership with five strong seniors, Elk River/Zimmerman is leaning on dependable senior Abby Rekstad, and Lakeville South, Prior Lake and Farmington continue to add quality athletes.

Expect another season of excellence from longtime head coach Steve Hangartner at Watertown-Mayer/Mound-Westonka. The Royals, last year’s Class 1A champs, have already had two all-arounders — Anna Mielke and Reagan Kelley — top 37.0. The Royals are scoring higher than any team in the state so far, regardless of class, averaging 145.738 point per match.

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