Big step on DL’s quest for fourth state title Saturday
A Detroit Lakes gymnastics team stacked with talent and loaded with experience will take the floor at Prairie Wind Middle School in Perham Saturday morning looking to defend their section title and qualify for a shot at a fourth consecutive Class A state team championship in Minneapolis.
“I am more than excited; I can’t wait,” said senior Emma Disse. “We were all together today at lunch looking at pictures of last year’s state and watching the videos. The amount of excitement; we almost have tears in our eyes because it’s literally the best day of our lives. Every single year, it’s so much fun. Being there with everyone and you have those memories that are going to last forever.”
When DL gymnasts reminisce they are pondering perfection in the sense that dating back to a third place state finish in 2014 a fully-healthy, starting varsity squad has not tasted defeat since.
“We have so much talent,” junior Cora Okeson said. “If someone isn’t strong on one event they’re very strong on another. It’s all kind of a puzzle that we put together. It just all works out at some point and we work together as a team and get along.”
The Lakers aim for a fifth straight Section 8A team title. DL dominated last year scoring just under 152 and winning by more than eight points. Regardless, the gymnasts know they have to execute to advance.
“It’s one meet at a time,” said Okeson. “Sections could go either way. We normally just take it one thing at a time. It’s better to not think of it now because you’ll get worked-up, nervous, stressed out about it. Sections is this week. Let’s focus on that and perfect our routines for that and the week after, if we make it, perfect our routines even more, get more consistent and hit it.”
The team has an arsenal of all-around talent at each grade level. Working together and creating team unity has been as important in creating what is becoming a legacy athletic program at DLHS.
“It’s our team,” sophomore Jackson Hegg said. “We’re not competing against each other; we’re competing with each other. We’re so supportive and we all want to do our best and that really helps.”
As the season winds down it means a bit more to the seniors Katrina Okeson, Disse and Alexis Ostlie.
“I think about it after every meet; this is my last time competing here and there,” Ostlie said. “It’s going to be sad when it’s over.”
Disse does her best not to think about it.
“Going into sections and state I’m doing my best to say this is not the last one,” she laughed. “I’m pretending I have three years left and it’s going to be fine. Don’t worry about it. That definitely has been a thought in my head. Senior night was definitely sad but you just try not to think about it ending. This year has definitely been a lot different. Senior year makes you pay attention. You can’t get caught up in moments. You have to stay in reality all the time. You blink and it's over. I can’t believe the season is already done. Every single day, I don’t get another day and it makes you work a lot harder.”
The coming fortnight has been a focus since the preseason and competing at the level the Lakers are used to and coming out on top is part of a thrill not many high school athletes get to enjoy, especially five straight years. For these girls, there are even loftier marks to chase after a section championship.
“It’s the most memorable and exciting meet of the entire season,” Ostlie said of state. “We all look forward to that. Even at the beginning of the season, we look forward to that. We just have to stay calm and we have to nail our beam.”
All four girls are quick to not look beyond sections but when pressed have lofty goals for the next state appearance.
Detroit Lakes already holds state scoring records on floor exercise, uneven parallel bars and overall team score. Melrose holds top marks on vault and beam in Class A.
“We’re definitely shooting for records,” said Disse. “We were off on beam by .025 last year and vault is definitely doable.”
A fourth straight team championship will put DL in rare company. Perham holds the top mark of eight consecutive state titles 2004-11. Mahtomedi had seven 1987-93; Lakeville six 1995-2000 and Roseville Area won four in a row twice: 2006-09 and 2012-2015. The 2008 Roseville squad set the all-time team score of 154.650.
DL hit 152+ and a new school record winning their fourth straight True Team title at home a few weeks ago. Going after scores of 153 and 154 are exactly what this team is built to do. Head Coach Steve Zamzo and assistant Leesa Lindgaard preach to the girls about constantly striving to be better.
“Nothing is ever quite good enough,” said Disse. “Okay, you’ve got a 152 but what could we have done better? It’s always what’s next.”
What is next is the Section 8A championship Saturday, Feb. 17 in Perham where the Lakers are heavy favorites to repeat and punch another ticket to state. Competition begins at 12:45 p.m.
“We definitely have to put in the work and execute everything, but as long as do what we know how to do it’s going to good,” said Disse.