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State gymnastics: Four area gymnasts prepare for big meet

DOUG WOLTER/DAILY GLOBE Worthington senior Paige Kinley (right) poses for the judges during her floor event performance at the Section 3A meet. Kinley qualified for state in three events.

MINNEAPOLIS — For a couple of area gymnastics teams, emotions were likely of the bittersweet variety at last Saturday’s Section 3A meet in Marshall.

Both Jackson County Central and Worthington — as powers of the Southwest Conference this year in the regular season — felt as if they were both contenders to win the section and nab a state tournament berth as a group. Martin County Area dashed both of their dreams, but the Huskies and Trojans will each have representation at this Saturday’s individual state meet nonetheless.

State competition begins at 11 a.m. in the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion, and Worthington senior Paige Kinley will represent her Trojans alongside freshman Liz Hayenga in Minneapolis while JCC junior Bailey Schneekloth and eighth-grader Brooklyn Schuett will represent the Huskies on the floor exercise.

“I think we definitely had hopes to possibly make it as a team since we were obviously a contender, but it just wasn’t meant to be,” Worthington head coach Joni Reitmeier said. “We had a few mishaps on balance beam and one on the floor, but I can’t say I’m disappointed. We had a fabulous season. We were 12-0, we won the conference title and have two girls competing at the state gymnastics meet.

“All in all it has been a pretty awesome season.”

JCC head coach Dastinee Vancura was pleased with her squad’s outcome at the section meet, as well, although they weren’t able to outscore MCA either. The Mavericks reached today’s team competition at the state meet with a 140.65 in Marshall, leaving the Huskies — with a strong 137.925 — to hold down second place. JCC was the section’s team champion a year ago and qualified for state.

Schneekloth secured her trip to state with an impressive 9.4 score to win the Section 3A beam competition. Schuett (9.175) came in fractions of a point behind Kinley (9.2) on the floor exercise. JCC eighth-grader Brielle Scheepstra placed fifth in two events, narrowly missing out on state.

“I was very pleased with the girls. They worked very hard for this. We came home from Marshall with some medals around our necks, so you can’t ask for much more than that,” Vancura said. “I was not surprised (at the outcome) because I feel all of our girls had a chance.”

Kinley reached state in three events, including floor exercise, vault and uneven parallel bars. It is her second year in a row to qualify for state in the floor exercise, and this year, Kinley’s score of 9.2 made her section champion in that event. She was third on vault (9.1) and fourth on bars (8.875). Hayenga makes her inaugural trek to Minneapolis after claiming third at sections on balance beam with an 8.95.

“Liz stayed on the balance beam, and that’s a good start. She nailed every single move,” Reitmeier said of Hayenga’s performance last weekend. “She looked confident. For her to be able to carry that throughout the entire meet and make it (to state) was pretty neat.”

For Kinley, this season has been nothing short of impressive. Despite a rocky start last Saturday, reaching state in three events became just another chapter for the team’s leader and only senior.

“Paige had a rough start on balance beam, so she had to get back into the mental game of things. She really let it explode from there. She had an awesome floor routine, a good vault and then ended on probably her best routine on bars I’ve ever seen her do,” Reitmeier said. “It was really a strong comeback for her.”

Worthington and JCC gymnasts will contend Saturday alongside other Section 3A participants when they rotate through the four events. Coaches from both JCC and Worthington simply hope their gymnasts can go in and focus on the task while also cherishing the moment and the atmosphere.

“I hope they go and enjoy it,” Vancura said. “There are those who don’t get to go, so I just want them to go in and do the best they can and enjoy it.”

Reitmeier paralleled those sentiments for her Trojans.

“It is true honor to be able to be at the state meet to represent your town and represent the Trojans,” she said. “I hope they can soak it up, enjoy it and have their best routines ever. I hope they can walk away and be able to say they did their best at the state meet.”

Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson is the Daily Globe sports writer. He hails from southwest Iowa and served as sports editor at the Audubon County Advocate Journal there for 2 ½ years before moving to Worthington in October 2013. Caleb trys to enjoy life and everybody that he meets. He enjoys music, playing guitar and drums, and is an avid sports fan. 
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