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DL gymnastics ready to unleash young guns

DETROIT LAKES GYMNASTICS team: Row 1: Danielle Kulka-Fain, Larisa Slotten, Leah Chavez, Jordyn Peterson, Kayla Wendt, Brooke Saunders, Sarah Schumacher. Row 2: Hannah Okeson, Katie Crawford, Abby Einerson, Natalie Hoffert, Morgan Eiter, Allison Berg, Claire Nelmark.

With the departure of two-time state champion Amy Crawford, the Detroit Lakes gymnastics team has a big hole to fill for the 2011-12 season.

But excuse the Lakers if they are not too worried about it -- and that is nothing against DL's first-ever state champion, either.

The Lakers are once again stacked and loaded to make yet another run at eight-straight state champion Perham, with highly-skilled gymnasts in every event.

"I think we will be strong in every event," said DL head coach Steve Zamzo. "This group is as capable as any other one in the past to knock off Perham.

"That's not saying we are taking anything lightly, because we are still the underdogs, since Perham are the eight-time champs."

The Lakers will have both top-level experience and youth in the same lineup.

Senior Jess Stelter is a seasoned state competitor and took fifth on the bars last year. She will lead the Laker contingent as an all-around performer.

"Jess is highly motivated this season and she is looking to improve on her own state placings last year," Zamzo said.

Stelter's senior teammate, Natalie Hoffert, missed the entire season last year after she broke her ankle in the first meet of the year.

But a strong offseason of endless work in the gym will show she is back to where she was two years ago, where she was a state qualifier as well.

"Natalie will show everyone what they were missing last year," Zamzo said.

There shouldn't be an event in which the Lakers are not deep or strong, but if there was one, it would be the floor.

But there will be improvement by the younger Lakers who had to fill in for injured teammates last season.

Eighth grader Jordyn Peterson stormed onto the scene during the 2010-11 scene and looks to be even better in her second year of varsity as an all-around performer.

Freshman Allison Berg returns after a strong year in vault, as well as the three other events.

Freshman Katie Crawford adds valuable depth as an all-around gymnast, while seventh grader Thia Olds comes in with a strong bar routine.

Another seventh grader, Leah Chavez, comes in with potential of being an immediate contributor as well.

The depth just keeps going with freshmen Morgan Eiter and Hannah Okeson as point-scorers, with the former having a solid season last year on beam.

There will be plenty of competition just in practice to form the starting five for each meet.

"We will have a consistent five starting, but it's still early and they will have to earn those spots," Zamzo said. "We will be going with our best five in each meet."

The big white elephant in the room, of course, is trying to unseat Perham as the Section 8-1A champions.

The Lakers will have plenty of opportunities to see how they measure up against the Yellowjackets, starting with the season-opener in Perham for the Jackie Mann Invite.

The two teams will also see each other five more times, including the Mid-State, Section True Team and Section 8-1A meets.

"The key will be to be consistent, they'll need to be solid in each routine and know their routine well," Zamzo said.

The Lakers will have three home meets this season, including Dec. 16 against Park Rapids, Jan. 20 versus Perham and Feb. 4, with Bemidji.

"We strengthened our schedule some, so we can see more state-caliber competition," Zamzo said. "That will make us a better team."

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