The final four
Yes, the Detroit Lakes gymnastics team will be left out of this year's Class 1A state meet, but there is still a "team" feeling among the four Laker gymnasts who qualified individually for the biggest meet of the year.
With the Lakers residing in the section that will probably soon be home to the three-time state champion Perham Yellowjackets, DL was still able to have its best-ever section meet, breaking a DLHS team scoring record and sending the most gymnasts to state in school history.
The foursome of juniors Whitney Walter, Meggie McCauley, Annelise Thorsgard and seventh grader Bre Halbur will make sure everyone at the state meet realizes the Laker program is one of the tops in state.
Walter isn't a stranger to the state meet, this being her fourth consecutive trip, but having this many teammates going along with her is new.
"Usually it's been just Leesa (Eilertson) and me going to state, but this year it should be exciting," Walter said. "It really will feel like having the team down there."
The other three will be first-time state participants, so pretty much everything will be new to them. Since each will be back next season, this year's meet will be a perfect learning opportunity.
"It will be more of a team feel with four down there, and it will be a neat experience for them," said DL head coach Matt Horner. "It will be a great learning experience for them."
Soaking in state experience
Since partaking in state is almost second nature for Walter, her objectives and goals are a bit higher than that of her teammates.
After finishing sixth on bars the past two years, Walters would like to crack the top five or even four.
And she has a good chance of doing so.
"The nerves for Whitney shouldn't be there," Horner said. "And comparing her with the other gymnasts in state on bars, I think we had the top four (competitors) in our section. I'd be very surprised if anyone will be better than our section's top four."
Last year, Walter felt her routine could have been better, and this year she hopes to end the season with her best bar routine.
"I'm going to try and at least do better than (top six)," Walter said. "I shouldn't be nervous for state either. It's an advantage knowing what to expect."
But the unknown will be ever present for the remaining three Lakers, since they are first timers at state.
With that in mind, Halbur, McCauley and Thorsgard are each going down to St. Paul with a couple things in mind -- to do their best, and have fun.
"I really don't have any goals or any particular score (to achieve), I just want the experience," said Halbur, who is going to perform on vault. "I do have five more years left (to make state)."
Thorsgard will be the only Laker in more than one event, after she qualified for both the vault and floor exercise.
"It will be exciting, but I'm not really looking for a certain score," Thorsgard said. "It's also nice knowing I have one more year left, so this will be fun and for the experience."
For McCauley, just the opportunity to compete at state is the perfect way to end the season. She will be competing on floor.
"My goal was just to reach state, so now I want to just have some fun," McCauley added.
But Horner is confident each Laker could finish in the top half of their respective events. With each individual performing at her peak, each has a little bit more to give.
"Their routines are so clean and put together well, I think each should be finishing in the upper half," Horner said. "This is the reward for the girls after working so hard this season.
"It will be a fun meet for them."
The Class 1A state individual meet will take place at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m.
Perham will try for its third-straight Class 1A team title Friday at 11 a.m.