The top-ranked Detroit Lakes gymnastics team competed as much with historical teams as they did the current competition in collecting a fifth consecutive Minnesota Class A state team championship Friday, Feb. 22 at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis.
Key Laker goals coming into Friday were met in hitting the state records on balance beam and vault to put a DL stamp on all five state records.
The team matched the state marks in both events scoring 38.450 on vault in the second rotation to tie a Melrose record from 2015. New Prague has owned the beam record of 37.9 since 2013 and now share it with Detroit Lakes. The Lakers finished on balance beam and that record score created a new Class A team record score of 152.2 points breaking last year’s Lakers’ high mark of 151.675.
“It was very exciting and it’s the way we wanted to go out in the end,’ said senior Peyton Jernberg.
Jernberg is the defending individual champion on balance beam and showed a comfort she has grown into on that particular beam at state, down to the actual texture of the apparatus.
“I’ve always loved this beam,” she said. “When I get up there it’s just me and the beam and I don’t get nervous anymore.”
The Lakers started the meet with comfort on floor exercise scoring 38.100, 0.25 points away from last year’s Laker state record. Lexi Yliniemi led with a team-best score of 9.7 and a 9.625 from the defending individual floor champion Cora Okeson got DL off to a strong start.
“Once we got through floor, everything was smooth going,” Jernberg said. “It’s a good confident booster to get our strong event down. We feel good about it and we can keep going up from there.”
Three seniors led the record-tying run on vault.
Okeson and Yliniemi posting matching scores of 9.675 and Jernberg posted 9.65. Eighth-grader Gabby Whitworth scored 9.45 in her state meet debut.
Senior Justine Lawrence matched Yliniemi for the top DL score of the day with a 9.7 to lead on bars followed by Okeson 9,625, Jackson Hegg 9.525 and eighth-grader Jerzie Horner 8.9.
Whitworth, Horner and freshman Ellie Hultin are a showcase of future team leaders. Hultin competed on bars with torn ligaments in her knee wearing a brace. She had noticeable discomfort on landing with a score of 8.7. Hultin competed in the all-around with Okeson all season and will likely be on the mend into next season.
Lawrence has been in the shoes of the underclassmen and praised the entirety of her team in her final varsity appearance.
“It’s so amazing knowing how much support I have from my team and knowing that they’re always there for me,” she said. “It’s so much fun to experience this.”
Lawrence also noted the work done away from the bright lights that has led to five straight state titles.
“Our coaches push us so hard in practice and care for us so much,” she said. “They put us through hard conditioning but it’s all worth it in the end. We’re used to getting pushed and they’re the best coaches ever.”
Much of that drive comes from assistant coach Leesa Lindgaard.
“I push those girls pretty hard during practice; I put a lot of pressure on them so that when we get into these meet situations they are 100 percent prepared physically and mentally,” Lindgaard said. “They’re that much more confident. We’ve really pushed through a hard season this year. We’ve had our ups and downs and they really fought through that, stayed focused on what we need to do and do what we do in practice. They really did a great job with that.”
The team competition was over no matter what the Lakers did on beam but DL went out in record fashion with Okeson 9.5, Hegg 9.45 and Whitworth 9.3 all backing up Jernberg’s 9.65.
Detroit Lakes has averaged a team score near four points higher than any other team in either Class all season and the final score at state was similar distancing themselves from silver medalists Sartell-St. Stephen (148.225) by 3.975 points.
The Class A Individual Championships will be held Saturday, Feb. 23 beginning at 11 a.m.
Section 8 will be represented by six Lakers: Okeson, Hegg, Whitworth, Jernberg, Yliniemi and Lawrence, along with Sydney Gray of Alexandria and three Perham Yellowjackets: Jada Olsen, Ashley Hokanson and Dena Fischer.
Minnesota Class A State Gymnastics Championship (*-state record)
1 Detroit Lakes 152.2*
2 Sartell-St. Stephen 148.225
3 Mahtomedi 146.050
4 Willmar 145.850
5 Watertown-Mayer-Mound-Westonka 143.750
6 Pine Island-Zumbrota-Mazeppa 143.125
7 Worthington 140.475
8 Mankato West 137.725
Detroit Lakes scores
Floor Exercise - 38.100
Lexi Yliniemi 9.7, Cora Okeson 9.625, Peyton Jernberg 9.425, Jackson Hegg 9.35, Gabby Whitworth 9.15.
Vault - 38.450*
Cora Okeson 9.675, Lexi Yliniemi 9.675, Peyton Jernberg 9.65, Gabby Whitworth 9.45, Jackson Hegg 9.35.
Uneven Parallel Bars - 37.750
Justine Lawrence 9.7, Cora Okeson 9,625, Jackson Hegg 9.525, Jerzie Horner 8.9, Ellie Hultin 8.7
Balance Beam - 37.900*
Peyton Jernberg 9.65, Cora Okeson 9.5, Jackson Hegg 9.45, Gabby Whitworth 9.3, Justine Lawrence 8.95