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Gymnastics: Lakers full of takeaways after first-place finish at the Jackie Mann Invitational

The Jackie Mann Invitational is an invaluable event for the eight participating gymnastics teams. It's a chance to get direct feedback from the judges and test their mental fortitude against tough competition. The Detroit Lakes gymnasts took first place, and have the blueprint to a successful season going forward.

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Detroit Lakes' Kate Taves performs her uneven bars routine at the Jackie Mann Invitational at The Hive in Perham on Dec. 3, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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PERHAM – The Jackie Mann Invitational showcases some of the best gymnastics programs in Minnesota in an early-season clash at The Hive. However, when it’s all said and done, the day is universally used for a team’s individual growth instead of a state meet primer.

Detroit Lakes won the eight-team invitational with a team score of 138.25, beating out Cambridge-Isanti for the top spot. Gabby Whitworth (36.65, 2nd), Jerzie Horner (35.05, 5th) and Kate Taves (33.20, 10th) all notched top-10 all-around finishes.

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Detroit Lakes' Jerzie Horner, right, hugs Gabby Whitworth following their uneven bars routine at the Jackie Mann Invitational at The Hive in Perham on Dec. 3, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“It’s the second meet of the year, so there’s still some stuff we need to work on,” Detroit Lakes head coach Leesa Lindgaard said. “I think an event like this is just a great experience for these kiddos to get out there. There isn’t a lot of pressure on them today. Go out there, have fun and do what you know how to do, and everything will be just fine.”

Whitworth finished in the top five in all four events, with her highest mark being a 9.3 on the beam. Horner at the Lakers’ top score of the day on vault with a 9.4.

“The girls have done a good job of doing the best they can through the first two competitions,” Lindgaard said. “That’s all that I’m asking from them right now. We need to work a little bit more on getting together as a team and being there for our teammates, but just coming out and seeing them doing what they know how to do is great.”

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Lindgaard spoke about having the most extensive roster she’s ever had before the season, which gives new faces a chance to break through into the starting lineup. Taves, Morgan Hausten and Addy Laux all recorded varsity scores on Saturday afternoon.

“I love it,” Lindgaard said on seeing newcomers have success. “I love that they have the opportunity to show what they can do. You never know when you’re going to get your chance. These girls keep working and fighting for it.”

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Detroit Lakes' Gabby Whitworth performs her beam routine at the Jackie Mann Invitational at The Hive in Perham on Dec. 3, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Despite going up against other programs eyeing Class A state meet success, Lindgaard views the Jackie Mann Invitational as a learning experience. Part of that is because they get direct feedback from the judges on areas of improvement and what they’re looking for out of the four types of routines.

“This meet is so great because the judges get to talk to us, and we get feedback,” Lindgaard said. “Everybody is fresh into this season, so we all get to watch and learn together. We get feedback on what we need to fix to help our scores.”

“Talking with the judges is so beneficial for us,” Lindgaard said. “All of us are human. We forget things and make mistakes. To have a chance to make sure us coaches are giving our kids the right information on what the judges want to see is great. It’s good for the kids to be able to hear those things from the judges, too, instead of just the coaches. It’s really valuable to those girls, and they really feed off of that.”

It’s challenging for the Laker coaches to completely take the pressure off their gymnasts, especially when two of the other top teams in Section 8-2A and the defending state champions are in the same facility. Add that in with the internal pressure of competing for roster spots, and the Jackie Mann Invitational is an excellent mental test for the Detroit Lakes gymnasts.

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Detroit Lakes' Addy Laux performs her floor routine at the Jackie Mann Invitational at The Hive in Perham on Dec. 3, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“Our depth is huge, and I think that puts a little more of those nerves onto these girls,” Lindgard said. “The coaches are telling them it’s no big deal, but it’s hard for a kid to think like that. They see that we have so much depth and how they have to compete for those spots. There are girls think that if they don’t perform well, somebody is going to take their spot. They really have to work hard in practices and in meets to do the best they can so they can take that pressure off themselves.”

DETROIT LAKES VARSITY SCORES- VAULT- Morgan Hausten 8.2, Jerzie Horner 9.2, Kate Taves 8.85, Gabby Whitworth 9.15; BARS- Hausten 8.05, Horner 8.55, Taves 8.1, Whitworth 9.1, Elsie Ratz 5.6; BEAM- Horner 8.15, Taves 8.2; Whitworth 9.3, Addy Laux 7.6, Ratz 7.9; FLOOR- Horner 8.95, Whitworth 9.1, Taves 8.05, Ratz 8.85, Ava Morrison 8.4; ALL-AROUND- Horner 35.05, Whitworth 36.65, Taves 33.20

JACKIE MANN INVITATIONAL VARSITY TEAM SCORES- 1- Detroit Lakes 138.25, 2- Cambridge-Isanti 136.9, 3- Melrose 134.7, 4- Watertown-Mayer-Mound Westonka 134.15, 5- Minnetonka 133.05, 6- Perham 131.3, 7- Maple Grove 126.7, 8- Fergus Falls 125.9

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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