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Lakers back on top: Detroit Lakes gymnastics wins Section 8A championship, Whitworth snags all-around title

The Detroit Lakes gymnastics team clinches its seventh state tournament berth in nine years--10th in program history.

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The Detroit Lakes gymnastics team celebrates its section 8A championship at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse on Feb. 12, 2022. The Lakers are headed to the state tournament after posting a team score of 144.65.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES – The Lakers knew they had enough talent to get back on top of a loaded Section 8A gymnastics field but had a tough time putting the pieces together all year. That was until five days before the sections.

Detroit Lakes hit its highest mark of the season at 144.675, which was enough to beat out Melrose (142.95) and Perham (141.75). The Lakers had three of the top eight all-around place winners, including Gabby Whitworth’s first-place total of 37.757. Jerzie Horner took fourth (36.35), while Elsie Ratz finished sixth overall (35.5).

The two-day gymnastics state tournament starts on Friday with the team competition. The Lakers will go up against the other seven section champions in hopes of winning their sixth state title. Detroit Lakes won five consecutive Class A championships from 2015-19.

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Detroit Lakes' Jerzie Horner, right, and Jordan Ehnert hug before receiving their Section 8A championships medals on the podium at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse on Feb, 12, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

On day two, Whitworth, Horner and Ratz will compete for individual titles. Whitworth will take part in all four after winning the Section 8A all-around title. Horner will compete on the vault, bars and beam, while Ratz will look to hit another big vault. The top three all-around finishers and the next three highest scores in each event qualified for state.

“It means so much more to go to state with the whole team,” Whitworth said. “I’ve been there before, and I wanted these girls to experience that too. After vault, we didn’t know if it would be enough. We were definitely hoping. It’s hard to explain what it feels like.”
The Lakers had yet to put their best foot forward this season. On Monday night, they decided to put on an impromptu solo meet in a last-ditch effort to take a step forward.

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“It really clicked on Monday,” Horner said. “We had a meet with just ourselves. The judges came and scored us. I don’t think we really believed that we could do this until Monday. That’s when everything started to click. We started the year at (133.05). To go from that to this is insane.”

Detroit Lakes trailed Melrose by 0.75 heading into the final event of the afternoon. The Dutchmen were on the bars, while the Lakers saved their best routine for last on the vault. Ratz, Horner and Whitworth all cleared nine points each to punch their tickets to Minneapolis.

“Vault is our big event,” Horner said. “We knew we could pick up some points on vault. We said we needed to go extra hard and extra big. We needed to take the least amount of deductions as we could and hope it was enough. It was an amazing event for us. We did everything we needed to do.”

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Detroit Lakes' Elsie Ratz celebrates her vault performance with the Laker reserves on Feb. 12, 2022 at the Section 8A championships at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Whitworth and Horner qualified for state individually last year and were at or near the top of the all-around standings at every competition this season. Detroit Lakes’ heavy hitters delivered on Saturday. However, Ratz’s performance put the Lakers over the top. Her big-time vault put the exclamation point on one of her best meets of the season.
“I’m so proud of her,” Horner said of Ratz. “She’s hard on herself. At the beginning of the year, she was convinced that she would never land that vault. From day one, we told her that she could do it and that she would do it. On Monday, she landed it. We told her we just needed her to land one, and she got us one.”

Horner had an up-and-down day. It started with a botched landing on the bars. She bounced back with a lights-out beam routine before slipping again on the floor. She came back one more time on the vault to get inside the top five all-around scores. It was a performance that exemplified her growth as an athlete.

“This year, I’ve been very bad at that,” Horner said of moving past her mistakes. “I’ll do badly on one event and come back balling. The rest of the meet is done for me. This meet, I was just like, ‘OK, one mess up is not going to make or break us.’ Once I saw that I had a decent score on the (bars), I told myself it’ll all be fine.”

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Detroit Lakes' Jordan Ehnert poses after her bars routine on Feb. 12, 2022 at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse at the Section 8A championships.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Whitworth claims gold

Whitworth has been automatic in almost every event this season for Detroit Lakes, but she found a new level on Saturday. Her all-around score of 37.575 proved she’s not just the best gymnast in Section 8A but also one of the best in the state.

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“I wanted to do well for the team,” Whitworth said. “I just wanted the team to get to state. For beam, I was very nervous. I was shaking, but once it was done, I was like, ‘I can do floor and vault. I got this.’ I just had to do what I’ve been doing.”

Whitworth’s vaults each came in at 9.65. She also scored a 9.45 on the floor, a 9.425 on the beam and a 9.05 on the bars. It was her best performance of the season, and it helped elevate the Lakers into the top spot.

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Detroit Lakes' Gabby Whitworth performs her floor routine at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse to a score of 9.45 on Feb. 12, 2022 at the Section 8A championships. Whitworth won the all-around championship with a score of 37.575.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“Being done and knowing how you did and knowing it was my best is pretty special,” Whitworth said. “Going into the second vault, my entry was a little off. Then I got the same exact score, and I got that feeling of adrenaline again. My teammates and my coaches push me every day, and they’re the reason this is possible.”

While waiting for the official announcement to crown Detroit Lakes as section champion, Whitworth had a feeling that she and her teammates did enough to win their first Section title since 2019. When she heard her school’s name over the loudspeaker at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse, a wave of emotion overcame her.

“It’s a feeling that can’t be described,” Whitworth said. “It’s a rush of happiness just coming at you. I just look around at all of my teammates and see these big smiles, and the adrenaline just pumps you up at that moment. It’s such a huge feeling that you can’t describe. You just have to feel it.”

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Detroit Lakes' Jerzie Horner smiles in the middle of her beam routine on Feb. 12, 2022 at the Section 8A championships at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

The Lakers have won seven out of the last nine section championships. Saturday’s victory was the 10th title in program history. Detroit Lakes will compete in the team portion of the Class A state tournament on Friday at the University of Minnesota. The individual competition takes place on Saturday afternoon.

“Going to state after missing it the last two years as a team is so awesome,” Horner said. “We were never at our best until this week, and even on Monday, we all said we could be better. It used to be one of those things where it was no doubt we were going to state. Now, we’re back, and it feels amazing.”

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SECTION 8A TEAM SCORES (TOP TEAM ADVANCES TO STATE)- 1st- Detroit Lakes 144.675, 2nd- Melrose 142.95, 3rd- Perham 141.75, 4th- Fergus Falls 131.45, 5th- Park Rapids 129.175, 6th- Little Falls 127.3, 7th- Long Prairie- Grey Eagle-Browerville 105.3

SECTION 8A ALL-AROUND TOP 10 (TOP THREE ADVANCE TO STATE)- 1st- Gabby Whitworth, Detroit Lakes, 37.575; 2nd- Avery McAllister, Perham, 36.875; 3rd- Brittney Lorentz, Perham, 36.7; 4th- Jerzie Horner, Detroit Lakes, 36.35; 5th- Courtney Althaus, Melrose, 36.025; 6th- Elsie Ratz, Detroit Lakes, 35.5; 7th- Maria Hinnenkamp, Melrose 35.1; 8th- Madeline Dehn, Little Falls, 34.225; 9th Aryanna Myers, Perham, 34.175; 10th- Morgan Koppelman, Park Rapids, 32.8

SECTION 8A VAULT STATE QUALIFIERS (TOP THREE AND ALL-AROUND TOP THREE ADVANCE TO STATE)- 1st- McAllister, Perham, 9.725; 2nd- Whitworth, Detroit Lakes, 9.65; 3rd- Horner, Detroit Lakes, 9.575; 4th- Lorentz, Perham, 9.4; 5th- Ratz, Detroit Lakes, 9.25; 6th- Hinnenkamp, Melrose, 9.15

SECTION 8A BARS STATE QUALIFIERS (TOP THREE AND ALL-AROUND TOP THREE ADVANCE TO STATE)- 1st- Lorentz, Perham, 9.4; 2nd- Althaus, Melrose, 9.275; 3rd- Miranda Gieske, Melrose, 9.225; 4th- Whitworth, Detroit Lakes, 9.05; 5th- Horner, Detroit Lakes, 8.85

SECTION 8A BEAM STATE QUALIFIERS (TOP THREE AND ALL-AROUND TOP THREE ADVANCE TO STATE)- 1st- McAllister, Perham, 9.475; 2nd- Whitworth, Detroit Lakes, 9.425; 3rd- Hannah Hoppe, Melrose, 9.3; 4th- Horner, Detroit Lakes, 9.275; 5th- Hinnenkamp, Melrose, 9.05

SECTION 8A FLOOR STATE QUALIFIERS (TOP THREE AND ALL-AROUND TOP THREE ADVANCE TO STATE)- 1st- Whitworth, Detroit Lakes, 9.45; 2nd- McAllister, Perham 9.375; 3rd- Lorentz, Perham, 9.175; T-4th- Maretta Van Beck, Melrose, 9,05; T-4th- Althouse, Melrose, 9.05; 6th- Meghan Pundsack 8.975

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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