All eyes on them: Perham's gymnasts know that school's dynasty is approaching state history Perham, Minn. - Pressure comes with trying to win a state championship.
Perham, Minn. - Pressure comes with trying to win a state championship. For the Perham gymnastics team, pressure comes from not winning state.
Winning seven consecutive state gymnastics titles brings those expectations. It also places Perham in a lofty position. Should it win another state title next week, Perham will have won more consecutive state titles than any program in the history of the state.
"When you're on the team in seventh grade, you just hope you are lucky to win state by the time you are a senior," said senior Mikaela Eickschen. "You just don't think that by the time you are a senior, your state championship year could be the one that sets the record."
Eickschen and her teammates are aware they're tied with Mahtomedi for seven straight state titles in any sport.
They just didn't know that Mahtomedi's run also came in gymnastics.
Yeah, there's no pressure at all here.
"I knew about Perham's gymnastics teams because I lived in the (Twin) Cities before I moved here," said senior Carly Petersen. "I remember reading the newspapers about how they good they were. I thought when we moved here that I could join and it'd be a breeze. It wasn't."
Perham's program started in 2002 and two years later it began a successful and somewhat surprising run.
Eickschen and fellow senior captain Kelsi Vomacka agreed that most people might not think about Perham being a town that is home to what has been the state's best program.
Perham is a town of 2,559 people tucked away in west-central Minnesota that's often competing with the bigger name schools in the Twin Cities like Eden Prairie.
"When we go to state, there are people who do want to see us lose," said Vomacka, who is going to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, a gymnastics powerhouse. "Some of it probably has to do with the fact that we have won and because we are a small town."
If any gymnast is the embodiment of what Perham's dynasty has achieved, it is Vomacka.
Eickschen and Petersen admit that she's one of the most, if not the most, talented gymnasts in the state.
Coach and program founder Charlie Fleck said Vomacka is one of the hardest workers he's ever had.
"A lot of what we do depends on Kelsi," said Petersen as Vomacka looked at her with a nervous grin while chewing her fingernails. "If she takes one fall, it is going to hurt our chances."
Vomacka jokes that Petersen's comment, "makes her a little nervous."
Yet when looking at the banners in the Perham gymnasium, it is easy to understand why her teammates have faith in her.
She's won a school-record 19 medals, with 14 of them being individual medals. Vomacka has won the all-state elite four times.
That is the equivalent to being named one of the top five gymnasts in the state.
"I think she has a real good chance at doing it again this year," Fleck said. "If she does, I think that might be a record too. I can't think of too many people who've won it five times."
Memories that have been created by winning are one of the things that keep the team driven.
It is looking around the gym and seeing 14 individual state championship banners since 2005 to go along with the seven state title banners.
Adding state title banner No. 8 would make for memories that would last forever.
"We want to win another state title because it would be nice to have the record," Vomacka said. "No one wants to be remembered as the class that didn't win state."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.
Clark's Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com
Best of the best
Another state title would give the Perham gymnastics team a record eight consecutive state titles. It would be the most in the history of Minnesota. Here's a look at schools that have set the record for most consecutive titles for many of the state's sports:
Baseball: Cretin-Derham Hall 3
Basketball (boys): Edina 3
Basketball (girls): several tied at 2
Cross country (boys): Minneapolis Southwest 5
Cross country (girls): Duluth East 5
Football: Stephen-Argyle 5
Golf (boys): several tied at 4.
Golf (girls): Minnewaska Area 5 (active)
Gymnastics: Mahtomedi, Perham (active) tied with 7
Hockey (boys): Eveleth 4
Hockey (girls): South St. Paul 2
Lacrosse (boys): several tied at 2
Lacrosse (girls): Eden Prairie 4
Soccer (boys): Edina 3
Soccer (girls): Mahtomedi 3
Softball: St. Bernard's 5
Volleyball: Robbinsdale Armstrong 5
Wrestling: Apple Valley 5 (active)