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Laker gymnasts grand in state meet

It's a good thing the warm-ups during the two-minute touch meant nothing for Detroit Lakes junior Whitney Walter, who was preparing for her bar routine in the Class 1A state gymnastics meet Saturday inside St. Paul's Roy Wilkins Arena.

Every gymnast in the state meet is supposed to get a two-minute warm-up session before each event starts, but unfortunately for Walter, her two-minute warm-up turned into less than a minute. After a pair of Perham gymnasts used their two-minutes each and the bars' setting had been changed for Walter's specifications, the DL state qualifier didn't have much time to get in a warm-up.

Fortunately for Walter, that didn't matter.

"I felt so rushed and I didn't have a very good warm-up," Walter said. "But during my (routine) though, I felt good."

So good in fact, that Walter had her best performance of her career, earning her a 9.675, which was good for third place overall in state. She was behind Perham's Kourtney Johnston at 9.7875 and Miranda Schmitz at 9.7125.

The third place finish is also three slots higher than Walter's two other finishes at state on bars, which were both in sixth place.

"That for sure was my best routine, at least for the season," Walter said. "I really don't remember the first part of my routine because I was flustered, but I do remember hitting my straddle-back (release)."

DL head coach Matt Horner couldn't have been more impressed with Walter's routine, called it "absolutely picture perfect."

"She definitely didn't have a very good warm-up, but she could not have done any better with her routine," Horner said. "A few of the coaches came up to me later and talked about her phenomenal routine. She nailed everything."

Walter also had plenty of support, as three other Lakers qualified for state, which is a DL all-time best.

Junior Annelise Thorsgard surprised even herself with a fourth-place finish on vault, while taking 24th on floor.

Some new moves on vault enabled Thorsgard to gain a 9.5857, which trailed first-place Dana Dierkhising of Melrose, who had a 9.7625.

"My first vault was better than usual and I've never stuck that skill before (a tsuk-pike)," Thorsgard said. "It's the best I ever did on vault."

Horner's reaction was one of some surprise, since Thorsgard only added her tsuk-pike three weeks ago.

"All season she was using a tsuk-tuck, so three weeks ago we asked her to add the pike to her routine," Horner said. "She hit it at state."

On floor, though, Thorsgard felt she could have finished better.

"That's probably the worst I've done this season," she said. "I was so nervous and I slipped a few times, to add to it."

She finished with a floor score of 8.8625.

Junior Meggie McCauley, like Thorsgard, competed in her first state meet after qualifying for the floor event. McCauley finished with a score of 9.0125 for 20th place.

"I was happy with my routine," McCauley added. "It was fun competing in state."

Horner said McCauley's routine will only get better next year.

"Her 9.0 was a nice score for her. She will have some skills to beef up, but floor is the toughest event to perform at state, too."

Bre Halbur will have plenty of opportunity to make a return to state, after qualifying for the meet as a seventh grader. She tied for 10th on vault with a 9.4875.

"For her to finish in the top 10 as a seventh grader is just awesome," Horner said. "To just make it to state as a seventh grader is something, but a top 10 finish is great."

With four Lakers making the trip to state, the driving force is there for the rest of the team to do even better next year. The motivation is also there for all four, who will be back for another season as Laker gymnasts, to return to state.

"If we work even harder in the offseason, I feel we can beat Perham," Walter said. "I think (with the rest of the team seeing us at state) will make them want more, too."

"We'll be more hungry to do better next year," McCauley added.

Perham did win its third-straight Class 1A team championship, and will return all but one gymnast next season.

Laker results

Minnesota State High School League Class 1A gymnastics meet, Friday-Saturday, Feb. 24-25.

DL individual results (including state champion) -- Vault: 1. Dana Dierkhising (Melrose) 9.7625; 4. Annelise Thorsgard 9.5857; t-10. Bre Halbur 9.4875...Bars: 1. Kourtney Johnston (Perham) 9.7875; 3. Whitney Walter 9.675...Floor: 1. Johnston 9.6625; 20. Meggie McCauley 9.0125; 24. Thorsgard 8.8625.

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