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DL gymnasts ready to shine

Laker gymnasts Natalie Hoffert, Jessica Stelter, Bre Halbur and Amy Crawford will represent Detroit Lakes at this weekend's State Gymnastics Meet.1 / 2
Natalie Hoffert performs her floor routine at Saturday's Section 8A gymnastics meet in Perham.2 / 2

By the time the Detroit Lakes gymnasts finish their events in the Class 1A state individual meet, it will seem like they just worked through an entire regular team competition.

The four Lakers who qualified for the Class 1A state gymnastics team will be competing in a combined 11 event spots Saturday inside the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion, starting at 11 a.m.

Each of junior Amy Crawford and sophomore Jessica Stelter qualified in all-around, while junior Bre Halbur made it on vault and sophomore Natalie Hoffert on each of floor and vault.

"It's exciting we gained 11 of 21 spots (from the Section 8-1A meet)," said Crawford, who will be making her second consecutive state meet in all-around. "Having four there will be fun."

State experience is also at a premium for the Lakers, as three of the four have qualified for it in the past.

Crawford finished sixth in state last year on the bars, while Stelter was fifth on vault.

Halbur has extensive state experience after qualifying in her seventh through ninth grade seasons, while Hoffert will be making her first appearance.

Crawford enters with a bit of notoriety after winning all-around honors in the state's toughest section, after scoring an impressive 38.4.

But she enters the state meet with no specific place in mind, despite being one of the favorites in the all-around category.

"Definitely everything has changed, everything is more intense and is brought up a notch," Crawford said of winning the section. "But I don't have any numbers in mind. I really don't have any expectations, just to have fun and hopefully make it up on the podium."

Crawford's bars routine is one of her strongest events, after taking first in sections with a 9.725.

But it will be beam which will determine where she will land all-around.

"The beam will make or break my all-around score," Crawford said. "If you fall, you lose a half a point and that puts you that much behind."

Stelter will be joining Crawford in all-around after she finished fourth in the section with a 37.925.

But Stelter's main goal will be to place higher than her fifth-place finish on vault last year.

"I think I can, because I have a layout (dismount) this year, instead of a pike," Stelter said. "I'll just take it one event at a time and hopefully do well on beam."

Halbur's road back to the state was not as normal as most.

During her freshman season, Halbur struck silver on vault after having three stellar seasons.

But an injury and burn out reasoned into Halbur's decision to not compete in her sophomore year.

"With my injury and being burned out (from gymnastics), I just thought it was my time to leave," Halbur said of her sophomore season. "It was hard to do."

Things quickly changed for Halbur this season when she watched the Laker's first two meets.

"I just thought it was a chance of a lifetime to come back," Halbur said.

Halbur is basically just over six weeks into coming back to gymnastics after taking a year and a half off and needless to say, it's been a challenge.

"I was very behind," Halbur said. "At first, I was thinking I could do everything, but after a while, I knew I had to just focus on two events."

Those two were vault and floor, which she excelled on previously her freshman year.

She progressively improved her vault scores, finally reaching a 9.7 in the Mid-State meet -- the same score she marked in state when she was runner-up.

But her expectations weren't still too high.

"I didn't expect to make state," Halbur noted. "Basically, I had to start at the basics and relearn everything. I'm still nowhere close to where I was."

She scored a 9.6 at sections for third, in which came on her first try.

"That was just a relief," said Halbur, after her 9.6 and qualifying score for state.

But her fourth state appearance will be much like her first, when she broke into the big show as a seventh grader.

"This will not be like my past years in state, when I had goals," Halbur said. "This time, I have no numbers set like I did in past years. It will be like reliving my seventh grade (state appearance)."

Hoffert will be entering the state for her first time, though, and she will rely on her teammates' experience there, as well.

Hoffert's path to state was similar to Halbur's.

The Laker sophomore missed all of last year with an ankle injury and most of the summer after injuring her foot during track.

"I was out for an entire year," Hoffert said. "It took an entire month just to get back in my routine. I had some good days and then I would hit some bad days and go backward."

State aspirations were not in Hoffert's head at the start of the season, but a nice progression of improvement, but her attitude of trying to just have fun was the key.

"I just wanted to stay calm (at sections) and just have fun," Hoffert said. "It was the best thing ever after I made state. I felt I accomplished something after all the hard work I put in."

One thing will be for certain, the Lakers will be well represented in this year's Class 1A state individual meet.

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