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Trojans gym team: New look, same winning spirit

After having competed in eight straight state team tournaments, the Worthington High School gymnastics team looks like a winner again in 2022-23

Worthington Trojans returning letter winners for gymnastics are (from left) Cristy Banegas, Kenadie Thiner, Hali Bullerman, Olivia Barber, Kelsey Soleta and Addison Gerber.
Worthington Trojans returning letter winners for gymnastics are (from left) Cristy Banegas, Kenadie Thiner, Hali Bullerman, Olivia Barber, Kelsey Soleta and Addison Gerber.
Tim Middagh/The Globe
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WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington Trojans gymnastics program has participated in eight straight Minnesota state tournaments, so naturally head coach Joni Reitmeier was asked by a reporter this week about 2023 becoming No. 9.

She smiled politely. She usually does that when she’s asked such questions.

“Right now, I just want to get through the first meet,” she said.

The veteran WHS gym coach wasn’t just being facetious. The Trojans don’t participate in their first regular season meet until Tuesday (versus Luverne at Worthington), but already they are dealing with injury issues.

Hali Bullerman, one of the program’s best all-around performers for several seasons, is out of action at least through December and her status for the remainder of the campaign was still in doubt this week due to a wrist injury she sustained during the Adrian/Ellsworth volleyball season. Another Trojan, Bryn Donkersloot, just started practicing again due to an ankle injury. And Kaitlin Jueneman, struggling with a back injury, is out for the year.

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Worthington Trojans Addison Gerber leaps and strikes a pose during warmups during a Tuesday afternoon Gymnastics practice.
Addison Gerber leaps and strikes a pose during warmups in gymnastics practice.
Tim Middagh/The Globe

Oh, there was at least one other minor setback. They didn’t have heat at the local gymnastics facility for two weeks of pre-season practice, but that’s fixed now.

And the Trojans’ expectations meter is on high once again.

Reitmeier explained that this year, the team is a little light on numbers compared to past years.

“I’ve told the kids, and I’ve always emphasized the importance of team,” Reitmeier said, “this year I’ve told them we’re going to really have to lean on each other. I really think this could be one of the most fun years, maybe one of the most rewarding years. Because it’s really going to be the team dynamic.”

Worthington Trojans gymnast Kenadie Thiner makes a run at the Vault during a Tuesday afternoon practice.
Kenadie Thiner makes a run at the vault during a practice session.

Like every other year, the Trojans possess several outstanding gymnasts.

Addison Gerber, a junior, is a strong competitor on the floor exercise and balance beam, and she may compete in the all-around this season. Senior Kelsey Soleta is solid on the uneven parallel bars and the vault, and she can do more. Another senior, Mia Nixon, should be seen on the vault and beam events. And junior Olivia Barber, who is long, lean and petite, is another all-around candidate.

Reitmeier is excited to work with junior Cristy Banegas, who she calls a “phenomenal gymnast” who until now hasn’t had her turn to shine. “And I think this is her year,” said the coach.

Banegas is another who could be an all-arounder.

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One of the youngest Trojans, seventh-grader Brooklyn Dykstra, is talented enough that she could see varsity action, too.

Despite the early-season setbacks, Reitmeier retains her confident demeanor.

“We have an extremely talented team this year. It’s going to give opportunities to girls who haven’t had opportunities, which is real awesome,” she said.

MORE GYMNASTICS
Better scores on balance beam leads to success
WORTHINGTON – The Worthington Trojans gymnastics team cruised to a team score of 141.025 in a three-team meet on Tuesday night. Competing against WHS was Blue Earth Area with a score of 126.775 and Marshall with 120.25.
The Worthington Trojans earned their highest-ever place at a Minnesota Class A True Team meet with a score of 174.525. Big Lake won the meet with a score of 176.2.

And as far as the state tournament goes, Reitmeier revealed that -- as in other years -- team members have written out their own list of goals. And yes, they hope to qualify for yet another state meet. But the veteran coach always likes to see her athletes aim high, and this year they’ve put down their desire to finish among the top three teams in the state competition.

It’s realistic, said Reitmeier. But the girls know they’ll have to work very hard for it.

There’s also a chance that the Trojans might miss the state competition, although one wouldn’t think so. It all comes down to how badly they want it, said Reitmeier.

“Some teams get beat. And it’s not always because they’re not talented enough. Sometimes they get beat by a team that wants it more,” Reitmeier pointed out.

So far, for the last eight years at least, the Trojans have wanted it a lot. And it’s still hard to bet against them.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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