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WHS gym team loaded with talent again

Key members of the 2017-18 Worthington Trojanjs gymnastics team include (front row, from left) Gracia Elias, Autumn Drahota, Abby Bristow, McKenna Prunty, (back) Marlena Garza, Kara Thuringer, Presley Eggers, Taylor Eggers and Maria Contreras. (Doug Wolter/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- So young, so spritely. But the Worthington Trojans gymnastics team has shown an inner toughness that comes out in meets big and small.

The Trojans, under head coach Joni Reitmeier, have qualified for the state team tournament for three consecutive seasons. And with a veteran unit coming back for 2017-18, there’s no reason to think it might not happen again.

Not that the girls are thinking that far ahead. That’s not how they roll.

“We have goals, obviously. But we seriously don’t talk about that on a daily basis. We talk about what we’re going to do today, and what we need to do to make it better,” said Reitmeier, whose team opens the regular season Friday, Dec. 1, at home against Hendricks.

Home for the Trojans is the Old Armory building in downtown Worthington. It’s a cramped building with poor lighting and limited seating capacity for fans. Plans are, however, for the gymnasts to move into new, brighter and larger quarters in time to finish the 2018-19 season there.

“I’m so excited I can hardly stand it,” said Reitmeier this week.

Until then, however, there is plenty to feel good about this year. All three Trojans who competed at state as individuals last season return, and more.

“We return almost all of our squad, plus many new talents. Obviously, we’re hoping for another successful year,” Reitmeier said.

Taylor Eggers, now a junior, along with senior Maria Contreras and freshman Gracia Elias are back after performing as individual state qualifiers.

Eggers and Contreras are accomplished all-around gymnasts and both are very good at showing attention to detail. Reitmeier describes Contreras as a “fierce competitor” and stubborn in that she knows what she wants to do and is determined to succeed. Eggers, who has been a fixture on the varsity team since the seventh grade, is so focused, according to the coach, that fans sometimes wonder if she’s enjoying herself during her routines.

Rest assured, Reitmeier said, Eggers is having fun while she competes.

Elias is a quiet, hard-working youngster who burst onto the scene last year with a state-caliber routine on the balance beam.

Also returning is sophomore McKenna Prunty, another veteran who’s had much success and performs with a style and grace uniquely her own. Another sophomore, Kara Thuringer, is a mentally-strong gymnast who supports her teammates well.

“In the clutch, you want Kara Thuringer on your team,” said Reitmeier.

Eighth-graders Abby Bristow and Mekyla Nystrom are young gymnasts to keep an eye on. Seventh-graders Mia Nixon and Bryn Donkersloot are ready to make a mark. And there are enough other fine gymnasts on the team to ensure that the Trojans will never have to worry about who they send out into meets.

This season marks the 10th year of coaching WHS gymnastics for Reitmeier, who subscribes to a simple philosophy for turning out outstanding athletes.

“No. 1 is having an excellent young program,” she explains, “supportive parents and community members, great assistant coaches. Probably above all that, is having a bunch of girls who can pull together and compete as one.”

Team togetherness can overcome a host of issues, too.

“If somebody has a bad routine, the other girls can usually pick up and do well,” Reitmeier said. “They don’t let that faze them. If they do bad on the balance beam, it’s ‘Don’t worry about that, we’ll kick butt on the floor.’”

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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