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GYMNASTICS WRAP: Lakers turn the page

A very successful chapter for the Detroit Lakes gymnastics team has been closed.

With seniors Natalie Hoffert and Jess Stelter finishing their high school careers in the Class 1A state meet earlier this month, it ends an era which spanned over four years and one which became one of DL's most dynamic times in its history.

Three straight state championships were earned by 2011 graduate Amy Crawford (twice) and by Stelter this season, along with a host of state placings, as the Lakers maintained a strong rivalry with Perham, which won eight-straight state titles.

But with both Hoffert and Stelter now leaving, a new era begins.

"It was a nice luxury to have those two seniors on the team, because you don't get that many quality seniors in a sport like this," said DL head coach Steve Zamzo.

"Jess and Natalie worked extremely hard throughout their careers and that is despite going through a lot of coaches pulling them in different directions."

The two seniors' journey through their respective gymnastics careers was a bit tumultuous, with turnstile of head coaches coming and leaving.

But one thing remained consistent throughout that time -- DL stayed as talented as one of the top teams in the state.

"The athletes were always here," said Zamzo, who coached his second year, along with assistant coaches Leesa Eilertson (a former Laker gymnast) and Joe Lindgaard.

"I can't take any credit for how well these gymnasts have done," Zamzo added. "It's been all about the gymnasts' hard work and Joe and Leesa working with them. (Minnesota Flyers trainer) Sith Hansana also has worked hard with them.

"It's been a community effort."

With Stelter winning the vault state championship this season and Hoffert doing well in three state events, they will pass the reins to their younger teammates, something which the two seniors had to take on when they were seventh and eighth graders.

And the youngsters have already been making their mark.

Seventh grader Thia Olds qualified for state on beam, while other seventh and eighth graders made big contributions throughout the season in Jordyn Peterson, Leah Chavez, Katie Crawford, Morgan Eiter, Abby Einerson and Hannah Okeson.

There are also plenty of youthful gymnasts ready to help turn the page into a new era, as well.

"Sith has done a fantastic job of helping the younger gymnasts develop their skills," Zamzo said. "By the time they come to high school, they are well ahead of their competition."

The Lakers entered the season with high expectations and hoping to end the decade-long section-winning streak held by Perham.

But untimely injuries derailed some of those hopes.

"They were disappointed at the end, but the one thing the girls did, was compete hard," the DL coach included.

There will be two big holes created which need to be filled on the 2012-13 squad, as some gymnasts will need to decide if they are going to move from the Minnesota Flyers club competition to the Laker high school squad.

"I can't speculate who will come and join the high school (team) and if they do, all I want it is to be a pleasurable experience for them," Zamzo concluded.

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