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Gymnastics preview: Athletes and teams to watch, story lines for 2018-19

By Star Tribune, 12/11/18, 3:15PM CST


An early-in-the-year look at who's set to stand out this season.

Champlin Park freshman Chaney Neu competed in the uneven parallel bars at the 2018 state meet. The two-time state champion will be seeking her third all-around title this season. Star Tribune file photo by Ellen Schmidt

Dandy dozen: 12 talented gymnasts to watch this season

Isabel Bartosh, Stillwater, senior

Ailsa Gilbert, Watertown-Mayer, senior

Cassie Kahrer, East Ridge, senior

Kenzi Kluge, Eden Prairie, junior

Char Morke, Cambridge-Isanti, senior

Chaney Neu, Champlin Park, sophomore

Emma Saksa, Champlin Park, sophomore

Gretchen Sharp, Stillwater, senior

Rachel Steiner, Lakeville North, junior

Grace Treanor, Wayzata, junior

Kari Wenzel, Lakeville South, senior

Aliah Williams, Chisago Lakes, senior

Note: Watertown-Mayer, Chisago Lakes are Class 1A

Metro Top 10 Class 2A

1. Stillwater: Defending champs have 15 of 20 routines back.

2. Champlin Park: Paced by a talented sophomore trio of Chaney Neu, Emma Saksa and Kara McElmurry.

3. East Ridge: Cassie Kahrer and Hailey Tretter head up a strong nucleus.

4. Lakeville North: With Rachel Steiner back, last year’s 2A runners-­up are still talented.

5. Cambridge-Isanti: More than half of routines from 2018 state tournament appearance are back.

6. Wayzata: Almost everyone returns, including 2A uneven parallel bars champion Grace Treanor.

7. Lakeville South: The Cougars lost a few state meet competitors but still have Kari Wenzel for another year.

8. Maple Grove: Junior Nadia Abid heads up a talented group.

9. Eden Prairie: Junior Kenzi Kluge is a top-10 all-arounder.

10. Anoka: Improved depth has the Tornadoes on the verge of a breakthrough.

Class 1A, five metro teams to watch: Big Lake, Chisago Lakes, Mahtomedi, Waconia, Watertown-Mayer.

Story lines

Old hat for Neu
Already in her fourth year as a high school gymnast, sophomore Chaney Neu of Champlin Park will be shooting for her third consecutive Class 2A all-around title. She finished third as a seventh-grader before taking top honors in 2017 and 2018. “Chaney looks great. She’s added difficulty and variation of difficulty on every event,” Rebels coach Jon Wynia wrote in the team’s season preview. Neu has a chance to become the only five-time all-around winner in state history.

High expectations at Stillwater
The 2017-18 season could hardly have had a more chaotic beginning — and more satisfying conclusion — for Stillwater. It began with head coach Tracy Swenson leaving the program and being replaced with two assistants, Dusty Dennis and Joan Ledson. It ended with the Ponies winning their first state team championship. Most of the Ponies’ key contributors are back, led by senior all-arounders Gretchen Sharp and Isabel Bartosh, along with veterans Sami Chang, Peyton Classen and Ellie Hammes. And this year, far less uncertainty. Lakeville North and Lakeville South also have the potential to become state champion, as do Champlin Park and East Ridge.

Small-school repeaters?
Last year, Chisago Lakes junior Aliah Williams capped her first season of high school gymnastics in the best way possible, winning the Class 1A all-around title. Williams has another state title on her mind and has been working on new routines, but an upper-body injury has forced her from competition until at least Christmas. In team competition, deep and talented Detroit Lakes is the big favorite to win its fifth consecutive Class 1A crown. The Lakers have already topped 147 points twice and have enviable veteran depth in seniors Cora Okeson, Lexi Yliniemi, Peyton Jernberg and Justine Lawrence.


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