Gymnastics: Detroit Lakes wins 11th section championship, 6 individuals qualify for state
The Detroit Lakes gymnasts won a section title for an 11th time on Saturday with their highest score of the season. Gabby Whitworth and Jerzie Horner finished first and second in the all-around.
FERGUS FALLS – Hanging a section championship gymnastics banner has become routine in Detroit Lakes. Saturday stayed true to the status quo.
The Lakers claimed their second consecutive Section 8A title — their seventh in nine years. Detroit Lakes' score of 147.125 was more than four points higher than Melrose (143) in second place, clinching one of eight spots at the state gymnastics team competition on Friday, Feb. 24, at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul.
"I don't think any of us realized how much potential we had last week when we had a mock meet," senior Jerzie Horner said. "We put up a huge score, and all of us were kind of like, 'Woah, this is real.' Everyone is pulling through. Everyone is coming in clutch, and that's what makes this so much more fun."
Horner finished second in the all-around standings, trailing only her teammate Gabby Whitworth. The senior duo led the Lakers to their highest point total of the 2022-23 season.
"This year has been a little rocky for me, and I was very nervous today," Whitworth said. "It's my senior year. I want to go out with a bang. I just had to stay calm, and (head coach Leesa Lindgaard) helped with that. It's just a crazy feeling, and I'm so grateful for this team and all the support that comes with it."
The top three gymnasts in the all-around standings qualified for state. Whitworth won her second straight individual section title, with Horner right behind her in the runner-up slot. Melrose's Courtney Althouse will join Whitworth and Horner next Saturday in the individual competition.
Whitworth won the floor routine and finished top three in the other three events. Horner won on vault and bars. She also finished sixth on the floor and 10th on the beam.
"They've been huge leaders," Lindgaard said of Whitworth and Horner. "They've been on the team since they were in seventh grade. They have that confidence they can give to the other girls, letting them know everything is going to be okay. They lead the team really well."
The top three finishers in each event who didn't place as all-around qualifiers earned state berths in each of the four events.
Elsie Ratz qualified on vault for the second consecutive season with a fourth-place finish. Ava Morrison and Morgan Hausten will compete on the bars at state after fourth and sixth-place finishes, respectively. Kate Taves locked up two state berths. Her floor routine was good enough for third place, while her beam mark landed her in fifth.
"I'm super proud of those girls. They all work so hard," Lindgaard said. "I wish all the girls could compete individually. As hard as they work in and out of practice, they deserve it. Unfortunately, that's not how it works, but getting six girls down there individually is so amazing for us."
"We told the girls, 'We're our biggest competition on the floor today.' However they needed to handle that to stay mentally tough and win those routines needed to happen. We can beat ourselves up or rise to the occasion."
'We're going to show people what we can do for the last time'
This week will be unlike any other for Whitworth and Horner. The two Detroit Lakes standouts have been there and done that when it comes to competing at state, but this week they're preparing for the end of the road.
Before the 2022-23 season, Whitworth and Horner decided this was their final run as gymnasts . Saturday was the first time they put their careers on the line.
"I felt it. You put pressure on yourself on days like this when you're a senior," Whitworth said. "You just want everything to go right. You want to put it all out there. This could've been the last meet. Everyone is so supportive, and that helps me get over my internal pressure."
"I don't know how to comprehend that this is my last week because gymnastics has been my whole life," Horner said. "It's really hard for me to wrap my head around being done after this. I just have to give it my all. At state next week, I just want to have fun. That's the most important part."
Like many great athletes, Whitworth and Horner shined when the lights were brightest. Whitworth finished sixth in the Class A all-around standings at state last season. She hopes to improve on her mark from a year ago but also wants to soak in the memories during her final week in the program.
"I'm just going to enjoy having my team with me for the last time ever,' Whitworth said. "I'm just going to put it all out there one more time. We're going to show people what we can do for the last time and just have a blast with it."
Horner missed out on an all-around qualification last winter after a botched move in her floor routine. Her rise back into the top three a year later exemplifies her growth mentally.
"I'm a million times more confident in myself in my skills this year than I was last year," Horner said. "Not going to state in the all-around last year was hard because I made it my sophomore year. I knew I was better than what I did last year. Now, in my senior year, getting second place behind my best friend makes up for all of it."
Horner could've let the wheels fall off again during her beam routine. However, after falling off the beam, she regrouped and scored an 8.9.
"I'm the anchor spot on beam. I have to pull through for my team," Horner said. "At that point, it's not about me. Honestly, nothing is about me. It's about the team, and everything we got individually is a bonus. Once I fell, I just told myself to stay strong."
Detroit Lakes is a Class A power. With their five state championships and 11 section titles, the Lakers are February regulars in the Twin Cities.
"It's focusing on practice time and getting those reps in," Lindgaard said on what it takes to be consistent at a high level. "It's putting the pressure on girls during routines and getting them in the mindset of pretending practice is the section meet. It's pretending a routine in practice is like competing at the state meet. Get them really focused and dialed in so they can be mentally tough. Physically, we're there. We have all the right skills. But how can we control our emotions, and what can we do to stay mentally tough? That's what it takes to get to this level."
Standing in the way of a sixth state title is Big Lake, the top team in Class A, according to the Minnesota Gymnastics Coaches Association.
"I think it comes down to consistency and mental toughness," Lindgaard said. "We have the skills, but how are we going to control our emotions? We can't get too high or too low. We want to stay consistent throughout the day. It's going to come down to who can be mentally tough and put their routines together."
SECTION 8A TEAM SCORES
1- Detroit Lakes 147.125
2- Melrose 143.0
3- Perham 136.9
4- Fergus Falls 135.925
5- Little Falls 127.525
6- Park Rapids 127.125
7- Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 98.325