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Jernberg, Smith headed to USAG Regionals

Emily Smith (left) and Peyton Jernberg both advanced to the USAG Level 8-10 Region 4 Gymnastics Championships to be held April 10-12 in Green Bay, Wis. Robert Williams/DL NEWSPAPERS

Gymnastics momentum in Detroit Lakes is flying high.

Minnesota Flyers’ gymnasts Peyton Jernberg and Emily Smith both qualified for the USA Gymnastics Level 8-10 Region 4 Championships coming up in April in Green Bay, Wis.

Jernberg will be participating in Level 9, consisting of 20 top gymnasts needing a finish in the top 10 in her age group to advance to nationals in Spokane, Wash.

“I think she could make it; she’s got to hit,” Flyers head coach Sith Hansana said. “You’ve got to peak at state and regionals to make it at nationals for 9’s and 10’s. She’s a competitor. She’s got really strong, floor, vault and beam. Her bars, hopefully she scores all 9’s and she’ll make it.”

A 9.2 or 9.3 at USAG level is roughly 9.75 at the high school level, based on a stricter judging of technique and execution.

Smith is Level 8 and will be participating in her final meet of the year at its highest level at the regional meet.

The two gymnasts are part of the same group as this year’s Laker state championship team, they are just taking a different approach to their gymnastics by competing at the USAG level.

“Most of our high school girls came through the system,” Hansana said. “We’re going to hopefully continue that success and win a lot of state championships. I’m trying to bring the USAG level of gymnastics to high school.”

The two programs have worked together to produce successful seasons on both teams with USAG being far more individual-centric, as opposed to the team competition of high school gymnastics.

Both Smith and Jernberg needed to eclipse a score of 34 overall at state to advance to regionals.

Jernberg’s all around score was 34.85 and she medaled on vault (5th) and floor exercise (6th).

Smith’s all around was 35.475. She medaled on beam (9th).

Class A state all around champion Molly Lyngaas qualified for state and scored 33.575 with a hitch on beam keeping her from being the third DL gymnast at regions. Lyngaas shined on uneven parallel bars finishing in second place and also medaled on vault (7th).

“It’s a long season,” Hansana said. “If you want to go high school then USAG it’s a huge challenge. If she would have made it to regions I think she would have made it to nationals. She’s that good.”

Historically, DL gymnasts Amy Crawford and Justine Lawrence have both advanced to the USAG nationals. Lawrence did so as a sixth grader; Crawford was the first to qualify and did so in her junior season.

To make nationals Jernberg will need to score on the plus side of 35.5, Hansana alluded.

Smith will be competing to set up her chase for level 9 next year.

“We’re going to try to get her to level 9 next year and her chance at nationals,” said Hansana. “These two are the special ones who stuck with me. It’s hard work and sacrificing. It’s about hitting. It’s exciting for them and it’s going to be fun.”

Jernberg made two regional appearances at level 8, one at level 9 and missed last season, after qualifying, due to a broken hand.

“I’m excited,” Jernberg said. “I really want to this year. I want to go before I move up to level 10.”

Smith accumulated her top all around score at state and heads to regions with upgraded goals.

“Last year was my first year of level 8 and was kind of a rough or mediocre year for me,” she said. “This year, personally, it’s been a lot better. My goal is a 9.0 on bars.”

At the completion of both gymnasts’ seasons, they will return right back to the gym to continue year-round training.

“We don’t get a break,” both chimed in.

Hansana, a 25-year gymnastics veteran, is in his sixth year as head of the Flyers Program and is continuing to put Detroit Lakes on the map region-wide.

“I love little towns like this,” he said. “They gave me a pretty good opportunity and we started with low numbers. Now, our numbers are huge. I’d say we’re pretty successful as a gymnastics business right now.”

Upon being hired, Hansana told the district to give him five years and his program would produce a state champion.

“That was my goal,” he said. “Chalk that up. It’s just a big advertisement for our gymnastics facility. I think the community is realizing we’re doing a good thing for the kids. It’s all about the kids.”

The Level 6 gymnasts’ season ended at the state meet. Those all around results are as follows:

  • Sabrina Ruiz 34.450. Medaled on vault (10th)
  • Gabrielle Whitworth 34.125. Medaled on vault (8th)
  • Isabella Smith 33.975
  • Kaitlyn Peterson 33.90
  • Jordan Ehnert 33.575
  • Grace Manning 33.025

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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