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the state-bound mfg gymnasts are (L to R) front: Jackson Hegg, Mary Eleanor Nelmark, Kennedy Hegg, Peyton Jernberg, Justine Lawrence, Emily Smith, Alexis Yliniemi and Cora Okeson. Back: Natalie Nelmark, Johanna Jernberg, Thia Olds, Maddie Rue, Molly Lyngaas, Anika Bohmer, Emma Disse and Alexis Ostlie.

Club sends an all-time high 16 to state meet

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For the second time in the last month, Detroit Lakes 14-year-old Thia Olds will be competing in a state gymnastics meet.

The first one came Feb. 25, where Olds took part in her first Class 1A high school state meet, where she finished 21st on beam with a score of 8.725.

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Her second state try will come this weekend in the USGA Level 9, age 14 Division, at the North St. Paul High School.

But this time, Olds will be bringing some friends along --- as in 15 of her Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics teammates.

"It should be a lot of fun," said 13-year-old Level 8 gymnast Molly Lyngaas, who will be competing in her fifth USGA state meet. "My big goal was to make state again."

Having 16 gymnasts, ranging from Level 7 to Level 9 and ages nine to 14, going to state is an immense accomplishment for the MFG organization.

"It shows we are scoring as high as the Cities' private clubs," said MFG head trainer Sith Hansana. "I'm happy sending 16 to state, we've never had that many go to the state optional."

To qualify for state, the gymnasts need to hit a state standard all-around score. USGA judging is also more stringent than high school, making the gymnasts' routines tighter.

Level 8 11-year-old Justine Lawrence scored a 36.5 to qualify for her third state meet, making her on the cusp of being one of the top gymnasts in her division, since a 37.5 with USGA scoring is an elite score.

"I just go out and try hard," Lawrence said of her third state berth. "It's tough to make it."

Hansana added the success of the MFG program is also a benefit for the Detroit Lakes High School team.

"It's a benefit for both," Hansana said. "The gymnasts can do both, it's good for the sport of gymnastics."

Olds had the challenge of transitioning from the high school judging and the USGA, but as one can see, she did it.

"I had to change a few things, but I was able to do it," Olds said.

Olds also has the chance to qualify for the Western Regionals, which takes the top half from each age group.

"She can do it, Thia is a very talented gymnast," Hansana said.

Making it to the level where these Flyer gymnasts are, isn't an overnight process. There are endless hours in the gym, and meets which include road trips to Iowa, Sioux Falls, S.D. and Fargo.

There was a meet every weekend in the month of January, but Hansana trimmed down the schedule to one event in each of February and March.

"I'm glad I did that, because it was a good time to fine tune their skills," the MFG coach stated.

With over 55 gymnasts in Levels 4-9, MFG is comparable to the Fargo clubs, while scoring with the likes of the Metro clubs, which are of the private ilk.

"We are non-profit, so we accept every gymnast," Hansana said. "It's good to promote both (MFG) and the high school programs, too."

The MFG state gymnasts will start Saturday, with the meet running through Sunday afternoon.

Flyers state roster

The 2012 Level 7-10 State Meet Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics qualifiers:

Level 7: Anika Bohmer (13 years old), Jackson Hegg (10), Kennedy Hegg (10), Johanna Jernberg (13), Mary Eleanor Nelmark (9), Natalie Nelmark (12), Alexis Ostlie (11), Emily Smith (11), Alexis Yliniemi (11).

Level 8: Emma Disse (12), Peyton Jernberg (11), Justine Lawrence (11), Molly Lyngaas (13), Cora Okeson (10), Maddie Rue (13).

Level 9: Thia Olds (14).

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Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN. 
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