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Lakers topple Perham in gymnastics

Amy Crawford performs her uneven bars routine during Saturday's Perham Invite. Crawford finished fourth with a score of 9.5. (John George/East Otter Tail Focus)

The date was March, 2002, and the Detroit Lakes gymnastics team had just defeated the up-and-coming Perham Yellowjackets for the Section 8-1A championship.

That was the last time the Lakers claimed a victory over Perham, which moved on to win the last six Class 1A state championships and seven Section 8-1A banners.

But Saturday, the cycle came full circle, as the Lakers topped the Yellowjackets for the first time in seven years at the Perham Invite.

Detroit Lakes finished in second place with a combined score of 143.6, behind first-place Elk River which notched a 146.915. Perham accumulated a total score of 142.70, good for fourth.

"It feels good to beat them, but we know there's still a lot of work to do this season," said Laker senior Kristi Hoppert.

Saturday had a tinge of a Section meet atmosphere to it, since there were nine larger schools competing and the Lakers were primed entering it after coming off a 145 score in their season opener.

"This was 'The Meet,' we knew we could do it," said DL junior Amy Crawford. "There were a lot of big teams competing, so it was a big one. But we're not going to get cocky about it, we have to keep working."

The Lakers scored some big points on both the floor and vault.

Jess Stelter took silver on floor with a 9.45 floor routine, while Crawford notched a 9.25 for fourth.

Natalie Hoffert also scored a top 10 finish with a 9.1.

Stelter repeated a second-place finish on vault with a 9.425, while Crawford was fourth at 9.4 and Hoppert sixth with a 9.375.

Crawford almost repeated her high-skilled bars routine from the first meet of the season, scoring a 9.5 for fourth place.

The Lakers' 145 to open the season was a good confidence boost heading into the Perham Invite, which also featured some elite teams.

"It was a high-stress level type of meet, much like sections," said DL head coach Jenny Whipple. "There were a lot of advanced teams competing. Beating Perham was also a confidence building for the girls. Perham is so talented and one of the season goals was to beat them."

There is still a long season ahead of the Lakers, but starting off this well is only a positive.

"We need cleaner routines and still need to work on some higher-level skills," Whipple said. "Consistency will be important."

A stringent off season of work is also paying off, Crawford said.

"It's a good start to beat our best score from last year," she added. "We put in a lot of work this summer and picked up a lot of big skills. But we obviously have to keep on getting better."

The Lakers will continue their schedule Thursday by hosting Jamestown, N.D., starting at 6 p.m. inside the Flyers Gymnastics Facility.

Laker results

Perham Invite, Saturday, Dec. 5.

Team results: Elk River 146.915, Detroit Lakes 143.6, Cambridge-Isanti 142.75, Perham 142.70, Bismarck Century 135.975, Bismarck High 134.10, Minnetonka 124.20, St. Cloud Apollo 123.85, Princeton 106.45.

DL event results -- Beam: 6. Natalie Hoffert 9.1; 11. Amy Crawford 8.75; 21. Kylie Foster 8.35; 24. Jessica Stelter 8.3; 24. Kristi Hoppert 8.3...Bars: 4. Amy Crawford 9.5; 9. Hoffert 9.05; 10. Hoppert 9.0; 27. Foster 7.65; 28. Stelter 7.55...Floor: 2. Stelter 9.45; 4. Crawford 9.25; 6. Hoffert 9.1; 12. Hoppert 8.75; 31. Foster 7.8...Vault: 2. Stelter 9.425; 4. Crawford 9.4; 6. Hoppert 9.375...All-around: 3. Crawford 36.91; 6. Hoffert 36.4.