The five-time defending Class A state champion Detroit Lakes gymnastics team kicked off the 2020 season at home with a 138.25 to 119.3 victory over Park Rapids Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the Minnesota Flyers Gymnasium.
The Lakers have new faces in the lineup and the coaching staff but the results were the same Tuesday night.
Last season’s run to state was led by a host of seniors, a team that gave Detroit Lakes all five state scoring records and captured gold in all four events during the state individual competition.
The one returning senior from that group and DL's leader this season is Jackson Hegg, last year’s state bars gold medalist.
Hegg swept first place on three of four events Tuesday to take all-around honors.
“It feels good, but it’s the first meet, definitely our roughest meet, but it was definitely better than I expected,” said Hegg.
DL’s top gymnast posted gold scores of 9.05 to win on bars, 9.25 on beam and 9.3 on floor. Her 9.25 vault was only bested by teammate Jerzie Horner’s 9.4.
Hegg’s expectations for her all around score was around a 32, but she was pleased to come in at 36.85, spearheading a Laker sweep of the top three spots with Gabby Whitworth in second place (34.4) and Horner in third (34.35).
“We have such a young team, for them to come out for their first meet - they have so much more time and so much more to give, it was really cool to watch them go out there today and do what they could,” said Hegg.
Horner and Whitworth joined Hegg with sweeping top three finishes on vault, bars and floor exercise.
Hegg and Whitworth finished one-two on beam, but Park Rapids’ Abby Kirlin slipped into third place to negate a sweep of all medal finishes by Lakers.
Also making season debuts for Detroit Lakes were sophomores Skylar Nelson, Jordan Ehnert and freshman Air Leitheiser.
DL started the year without sophomore standout Ellie Hultin who is sidelined until January after recovering from a leg injury suffered late in the 2018-19 season. She may be eligible for bars prior to the Christmas holiday but will not resume full-time competition until sometime after the first of the year.
“Right now our big goal is Jackie Mann and getting Ellie healthy, because she’s our big scorer,” said Hegg. “That’s our main focus on getting everyone healthy and getting their reps in.”
DL has typically opened the season at the Jackie Mann Invite in Perham, but that meet will be the third on the schedule this year coming up Saturday, Dec. 7 after a Thursday dual at Little Falls.
Those upcoming meets and building on the team score of 138, which topped out last year at a state record 152.2 are priorities in the early going. Little talk is centered on a seventh straight section championship and sixth straight state title. It’s more about getting to work.
“We are hoping to make it out of the section like every team, crossing our fingers, working our butts off in the gym and hopefully it pays off,” Hegg said.
Thursday’s meet in Little Falls is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. with the junior varsity competition at the Little Falls Continuing Education Center.
Detroit Lakes 138.25, Park Rapids 119.3
1 Jackson Hegg 36.85
2 Gabby Whitworth 34.4
3 Jerzie Horner 34.35
4 Halle Landstrom, PR 32.05
5 Skylar Nelson 30.9
6 Morgan Koppelman, PR 30.5
7 Natalie Backmann, PR 26.05
1 Horner 9.4
2 Hegg 9.25
3 Whitworth 9.15
4 Landstrom, PR 8.9
5 Jordan Ehnert 8.4
7 Nelson 8.25
1 Hegg 9.05
2 Horner 8.75
3 Whitworth 8.1
4 Ehnert 7.7
7 Nelson 6.9
1 Hegg 9.25
2 Whitworth 8.35
3 Kirlin, PR 8.0
4 Nelson 7.85
6 Ehnert 7.55
9 Horner 7.15
1 Hegg 9.3
2 Horner 9.05
3 Whitworth 8.8
5 Ari Leitheiser 8.3
7 Nelson 7.9