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Stelter ends prep career as state champion

Natalie Hoffert puts her finishing touches on the bars during the Class 1A state meet Saturday.1 / 2
Jess Stelter performs her beam routine during the Class 1A state meet Saturday, as DL head coach Steve Zamzo background) looks on.2 / 2

Saving her best for last was the way to go for Detroit Lakes senior Jess Stelter.

Coming off a solid -- yet disappointing -- Section 8-1A meet, Stelter joined former teammate Amy Crawford as a Laker state champion after winning the Class 1A state vault championship Saturday inside the University of Minnesota's Sports Pavilion, while finishing as the all-around runner-up.

Stelter had quite the recovery after finishing no better than third in any of her events at the section meet, instead taking the vault title, silver in all-around and third overall on bars.

"In the very last moment of her career, Jess hit her biggest vault," said DL head coach Steve Zamzo. "It really puts an exclamation point on a great career."

Stelter, who was not available for comment due to being on a family vacation in Florida, also stuck her beam, which proved to be crucial for her all-around score.

But it was her second vault in which earned her state gold with her front hand spring, front tuck routine. She nailed it after a first vault in which she opened herself a little too soon.

"(Assistant coach) Leesa Eilertson spoke with her between her first and second vaults and she hit it," Zamzo said.

Stelter's 9.725 was .1375 better than Sartell's second-place Mikayla Dockendorf's 9.5875.

But Stelter's day started as the first gymnast on bars, which just laid the foundation for her eventual state championship.

She hit a 9.6625, which was tops for most of the meet up to the last rotation, where a pair of Melrose competitors in Hailey Brinkman (9.7) and Jailyn Brinkman (9.6375) eventually topped the Laker.

"Jess was excited she was awarded the score she received, it solidified her confidence for the rest of the meet," Zamzo included.

A sticky beam came next for her all-around score, where she was awarded a 9.2, while finishing up on floor with a solid 9.4125.

Senior teammate Natalie Hoffert also had a good floor routine, landing a 9.3625 for eighth place.

"Those were redeeming scores for both Jess and Natalie after section," the DL coach included. "It reassured them both of what they do is good."

Melrose's Hailey Brinkman nipped out Stelter for the all-around state title, outscoring the Laker by .15 at 38.15 to 38.0.

Brinkman held the edge on the beam over Stelter at 9.6375 to 9.2, while the vault swayed in the DL gymnasts' favor 9.725 to 9.1875.

Hoffert also finished 10th on vault at 9.4 and 12th on bars with a 9.075, as well.

Seventh grader Thia Olds completed her first state meet with a 21st position on beam with an 8.725.

"Natalie had a good bars routine and even though she didn't make the podium, she had a great state meet," Zamzo said. "Thia had one fall on beam and if not for that, she would have probably finished near fifth or sixth.

"Thia was disappointed with her beam routine, but grateful for the experience."

For Stelter, extending DL's state individual championship streak to three consecutive years will have a lasting effect on the program.

"It's great for the program," Zamzo said. "Leesa (Eilertson) and Joe Lindgaard just do a great job with the kids, who have also worked a lot with (Minnesota Flyers coordinator and trainer) Sith Hansana."

For the first time in eight years, there was a new Class 1A state team champion, after Melrose unseated Perham with a score of 147.5.

The Yellowjackets still faired well, taking fourth overall with a score of 143.775.

Laker results

Class 1A state gymnastics meet at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion, Saturday, Feb. 25.

DL event results -- Vault: 1. Jessica Stelter 9.725; 10. Natalie Hoffert 9.4...Bars: 3. Stelter 9.6625; 12. Hoffert 9.075...Beam: 21. Thia Olds 8.725; All-around: Stelter 9.2...Floor: 8. Hoffert 9.3625; All-around: Stelter 9.4125...All-around: 2. Stelter 38.00.

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