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Prep gymnastics: Unbeaten Trojans reach for the stars

FILE PHOTO Worthington freshman Liz Hayenga performs a routine on balance beam in a meet recently. The Trojans will travel to St. James Area tonight.

WORTHINGTON - Take a poll of members of this winter’s Worthington gymnastics team and they will give you a unanimous answer for the success they’ve had: they get along with each other.

Sure, the team is likely to have its quarrels now and again but overall they look out for each other and have helped one another out as they’ve grown together. A little hard work has also gone a long way, gymnastics coach Joni Reitmeier explained late last week.

“These girls have dedicated their time to this sport and their team,” she said. “With hard work and dedication comes success. Because of their dedication to hard work and a willingness to be there for each other, it has proven them to be successful.”

The team chemistry for the now twelfth-ranked Trojans (Class A) starts at the top and works its way down to the youngest and newest members of the team. The group’s one senior, Paige Kinley, has repeatedly performed compelling routines for judges, as have others. Kinley had a career-high 36.325 all-around score in a meet earlier this year with Hendricks.

To the varsity team’s youngest members, Kinley’s leadership has also been second to none.

“Everybody on the team does a good job of supporting each other,” seventh-grader Taylor Eggers said. “If I do something wrong, Paige does a good job of pointing it out. She makes us better gymnasts and helps us out. It’s a really good experience to be on this team.”

Plenty of things go into preparing and perfecting a gymnastics routine for judges. On the day before a meet, the team has a “meet day” practice. Each gymnast performs one routine on each event. They practically aren’t allowed to leave until they feel good about each performance for the following day. This isn’t to mention the conditioning and practice that leads up to a season and meets.

“It takes us at least two weeks at the beginning of the season for us to get a routine and get through that routine for that first meet. Right now, we’re at our peak, so it’s more mental and keeping up with our routines and hitting those little details,” Reitmeier said. “You can throw some big skills but if you can’t do them great, it’s not worth it.”

Perhaps one reason for Worthington’s immediate varsity success after graduating hard a year ago is its youth gymnastics program called SWAG. Reitmeier coaches the group that is made up of approximately 30 young gymnasts. All five varsity all-around gymnasts the team boasts including Eggers, Kinley, Maria Contreras, Whitney Jensen and Liz Hayenga, have gone through SWAG.

Now that they’re on the varsity team, Kinley enjoys being a leader for all of her teammates.

“I had some great leaders when I was younger, so it made me want to help them out more,” Kinley said of her team. “I know that, with their abilities, they can be great gymnasts, so I just want what’s best for the team.”

The Trojans most recently finished sixth as a team at the Jackson County Central Sweetheart Invitational, scoring a 130.575. Kinley was sixth, with a 34.3, in the all-around. Contreras, an eighth-grader, posted an 8.85 for sixth place on floor exercise. JCC, at 4-3 on their season and a longtime staple in the Southwest Conference, placed third on Saturday.

A goal that remains in the forefront of Kinley’s mind is a repeat trip to state, but this time as a team. She went last year individual.

“I really hope we can keep going up from here. To go to state as a team would be a lot of fun,” Kinley said. “I love this group of girls because we’re so close together. It is making it a really fun year for me.”

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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