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Detroit Lakes feasts on another state gymnastics title

By Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune, 02/24/17, 5:39PM CST


Hungry for wins and records, Detroit Lakes ate up the competition for the Class 1A state championship.

Video: Detroit Lakes' Leah Chavez

It was Napoleon who said “An army travels on its stomach.” So, apparently, does the Detroit Lakes gymnastics team.

For all of the hard work and sweat and labor that went into Detroit Lakes’ victory in the Class 1A gymnastics state meet — the Lakers’ third in a row — a behind-the-scenes motivation came to light in post-match interviews.

Chicken Wings. Pie. More chicken wings.

With Detroit Lakes, it’s all about the food.

“It really is!” Lakers junior Emma Disse laughed. “That’s our secret.”

The Lakers have been the state’s best gymnastics team all season, regardless of class. They routinely scored higher than 151, an elite-level score that no other team in Minnesota touched. The Lakers spent most of the season with an unfettered view from the top, the result of a team with depth coming out of its ears and a dedicated coaching staff.

And full stomachs.

“One of our coaches told us this season that if we scored a 150, we’d get 150 wings from the Long Bridge, a restaurant back home,” said senior Leah Chavez. “We got 151. She bought us 200 wings and we demolished all of them.”

The night before the state meet, the Lakers honored another team tradition: a journey to a local restaurant for pie. They were set and it showed Friday.

Their meet-winning score of 151.675 obliterated the previous Class 1A meet record of 150.4, set by Perham in 2005. Melrose was second with a score of 149.425, Austin third with 146.175.

Detroit Lakes utilized a record-setting performance on the uneven bars as a catalyst for its big overall score. The Lakers opened the meet with a record 38.15 on the uneven bars, setting the tone for the rest of the meet.

“We struggled last week and this week practicing on bars,” coach Steve Zamzo said. “So to come do what they did on the bars is a big feat. To come up like that was outstanding. Couldn’t be prouder.”

The Lakers followed with a near-record on the balance beam, posting a 37.75. After that, the rest of the meet was for second place.

“This one feels the best,” said Chavez, a member of all three championship teams. “With this being my senior year and setting the records, this is special.”

Another feast followed as the team rented out a room at a local wing-joint for a celebration dinner.

With just three seniors on the roster, the Lakers look primed for more success next year. Disse said that not reaching their goal of scoring 152 this year is just more motivation for next season.

“We’re saving it,” she said jokingly. “That’s something we can shoot for next year.”

As long as they’re well-fed.

Jim Paulsen • 612-673-7737

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