Reitmeier takes helm of Worthington gymnastics programWORTHINGTON — After years of waiting, Joni Reitmeier is finally getting her chance. With the departure of Worthington head gymnastics coach Shelly Eklund, Reitmeier is taking the helm of the program.
By: Aaron Hagen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — After years of waiting, Joni Reitmeier is finally getting her chance.
With the departure of Worthington head gymnastics coach Shelly Eklund, Reitmeier is taking the helm of the program.
“I’m really excited,” Reitmeier said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m excited to see how it goes. I’ve coached a lot with Shelly, so I’m hoping to live up to her standards, and the standards that she’s set for the Worthington gymnastics team, so hopefully things will go well.”
Eklund left the Worthington program for a position at Eagan High School after a 22-year stint as a Trojan.
As Eklund leaves behind a legacy, now it will be Reitmeier’s turn to take the program to new heights.
“I’ve been coaching since I was in ninth or tenth grade, doing community ed programs,” Reitmeier said. “I’ve always enjoyed coaching, and I always said that I was a better coach than gymnast, which is probably true. I’ve been kind of waiting my turn, and it happened to work out.”
While it is Reitmeier’s first head coaching job, she is no stranger to the mat.
A 2000 graduate of Worthington, Reitmeier was a gymnast under Eklund, and has coaches along side of her as well.
“I was a gymnast with her, and we have a little girls program, so I’ve coached a lot with Shelly doing that,” Reitmeier said. “I was also the assistant coach for a year, so I’ve coached quite a bit with Shelly.”
Even though she and Eklund have worked hand-in-hand, the former coach still leaves big shoes to fill.
“It’s tough because she’s well know to the community and she’s built the program from scratch,” Reitmeier said. “Before her, they had quite a few different coaches. She’s really built on the Trojan gymnastics team, but also the little kids program, which is competitive.”
Having the experience with the girls on the team since they were young gymnasts will help make the transition smooth for the team and for Reitmeier.
“I think it is beneficial for the girls and myself because I know what kind of athletes they are and I know wherex their strong points are and how far I can push them,” Reitmeier said. “I think it’s going to be a real benefit.”
However, where the real benefit will show through is in the trust between the team and its new coach.
“In gymnastics, trust is very big, especially when it comes to the spotting aspect,” Reitmeier said. “Because all the girls know me and I’ve spotted them all since they were teeny-tiny, the trust thing is really huge and we already have that.”
With just one senior on this year’s upcoming team, Reitmeier will have a challenge ahead.
“We’re really a young team,” Reitmeier said. “I’m hoping that we can build every year. The goal right now is to get better every meet. We’re not going to set any high expectations, but the main goal is to have fun and enjoy what we’re doing and continue to get better every single meet. I think those are realistic goals, and goals that we can meet.”
But for the Trojans, the cupboard isn’t bare.
Lynn Harberts returns as the only senior and brings the experience of qualifying for state last season. Taylor Erwin will be a junior and will be looked upon to be a leader this year.
“Lynn is going to be a senior, and Taylor Erwin is going to be a junior, so they are our two older girls and I’m hoping that they will show some really good team leadership to our younger girls,” Reitmeier said.
With a young, promising team, Reitmeier hopes to continue on the same path that Eklund took the Trojan program.
“She’s a huge influence on gymnastics in our community. So, it’s big shoes to fill, and I’m not saying I’m going to be as good as her, but I hope to live up to the standards that she’s set,” Reitmeier said. “It’s a little bit intimidating at first because she is such a big part of Worthington gymnastics and has built it to be a good program. Hopefully, we can continue doing that.”