The Elk River-Zimmerman gymnastics team is heading to the Class 2A state tournament once again.
The Elks competed in the Section 5AA championship meet on Thursday, March 18, hosted at Champlin Park High School. Due to COVID-19 protocols established by the Minnesota State High School League, the championship was split into two sessions. Competing in session one was Champlin Park, Maple Grove, Osseo-Fridley and Rogers. Competing in session two with the Elks were Park Center, St. Anthony-Spring Lake Park and St. Michael-Albertville.
At the end of the second session, the Elks walked away with the title of Section 5AA Champion and MSHSL Class AA state team qualifier, earning a score of 144.25. An Elk River team has not advanced to the state tournament in consecutive years since 1993 and 1994.
Head coach Jenn Bartlett said the 2019-20 and 2020-21 Elks have solidified their place in Elk River history after accomplishing this feat.
“We appreciate everything that Dana Hunt and her girls did to pave the way, and they [the 2020-21 team] want to continue to meet that expectation of being a state qualifier and being one of the top teams in the section. They work hard for it, they are humble, and they are honored to be representing 5AA at the state tournament.” Bartlett said.
Competing for the Elks at Sections and qualifying for the State tournament as a team were senior captains Lexi Milless and Miranda Schwieger; juniors Ava Cole, Zoey Johnson and Abby Rekstad; sophomores Gracie Jensen and Jaelyn Sorenson; freshman Sydney Martin, and eighth graders Kendall Cole and Ally Rekstad. Not only will the Elks be sending all of their gymnasts to State to compete at the team level, they also have four gymnasts competing in the individual tournament: Johnson, Rekstad, Schwieger and Sorenson. Sorenson and Johnson will compete on beam, Schwieger will compete on vault and Rekstad will compete on all four events. This marks the third state Individual appearance for Rekstad and second state individual appearances for Johnson, who placed fourth on beam in 2020, Schwieger and Sorenson. Schwieger, the only gymnast in Zimmerman High School history to qualify for the state tournament, first qualified as an individual in the 2018-19 season.
Bartlett said Thursday’s meet solidified Rekstad’s status as one of the best gymnasts in Section 5AA and Class AA. The top three all around gymnasts get an automatic bid to compete and earn a title on all four events and in the all-around category.
“Due to Abby’s fantastic performances where she qualified on each event, she gets the bonus category of also competing for the title in the all-around competition,” she said. “Abby is a consistent performer. She doesn’t get rattled. She is a team motivator and helps others work through mental breakdowns to get to the breakthrough. She will go down as one of the best all-arounders in Elk River history and she is not done yet. I am looking forward to seeing what she is going to do in the offseason to bring into the season next year.”
Elk River-Zimmerman finished first on vault with a score of 36.975, first on bars with a score of 34.05, first on beam with a score of 37.1 and second on floor with a score of 36.125. All together, the Elks received a score of 144.25 points.
Three Elk River-Zimmerman gymnasts finished in the top 10 on vault. Rekstad finished in second place with a score of 9.625, Schwieger finished sixth with a score of 9.375 and junior Ava Cole finished 10th with a score of 9.125.
On the uneven bars, four Elks finished in the top 10. Rekstad finished fifth with a score of 8.775, Schwieger finished seventh with a score of 8.475 and Sorenson and Martin finished eighth and ninth with an 8.4.
On the balance beam, all five Elks competing on beam finished in the top 10. Sorenson finished second with a score of 9.475, Johnson finished fourth with a score of 9.400, Rekstad finished sixth with a score of 9.15 and Martin and Schwieger finished ninth and tenth with scores of 9.075 each.
On the floor exercise, three Elk River-Zimmerman gymnasts finished in the top 10. Rekstad finished sixth with a score of 9.225, Sorenson finished seventh with a score of 9.2 and Schwieger finished ninth with a 9.
In the all-around competition, the three Elks in this category all placed in the top 10. Rekstad in fourth by scoring 36.775, Schwieger placed sixth with a total score of 35.925 and Sorenson was seventh with a 35.875.
Bartlett said she didn’t notify the Elks that they had finished first until they were preparing to leave Champlin Park High School.
“At the end of the meet, the results were not finalized by the time we had to leave, but they were enough to know that we had a two-point lead over Champlin Park,” Bartlett said. “The Champlin Park coach [Jonathan Wynia] was a class act by coming over and congratulating the team. When we walked outside, I said, ‘Hey, Lady Elks, it’s time to get on the bus. Oh, wait. Let me rephrase. Will the back-to-back section champions please get on the bus.’ We had a great time celebrating those words as a team.
“It was very different not having an awards ceremony and not having the results solidified right away, but everybody knew that going in. Ally [Meech] from Rogers did an amazing slideshow with pictures of all the winners. They made it as wonderful as they could have. We were a little disappointed that the trophies and medals were not handed out that night as in other Sections but those will be coming in the mail in the next few weeks. And trust me, we will be celebrating when we get them!”
Elk River-Zimmerman will compete in the Class AA state tournament on Saturday, March 27, at 11:30 a.m. at Champlin Park High School. The Elks will compete as a team and individuals in the first session along with Section 4 champion Stillwater Area, Section 6 champion Wayzata and Section 7 champion Forest Lake. The tournament is divided into two sessions of four teams each due to COVID-19 protocols established by the Minnesota State High School League. In a standard season, the team competition is held on Friday and the individuals return on Saturday for their championships. This season, four sections will compete in their respective session and the individuals who qualified will compete in the same rotation with the Section winning team.
Bartlett said her goal for Elk River-Zimmerman is for the Elks to finish in the top 6 as a team. Something that has never been done in Elk River-Zimmerman gymnastics history is to earn a team medal and be on the podium.
“We will look at all of those teams, look at what they’ve been scoring, look at where we are and try to map out the best opportunity to do something that Elk River gymnastics has never done, and that is medal on the podium,” she said. “We’re trying to make more history and this team can do it. This team is jam-packed, full of energy, understands the rules, enjoys each other, works hard for each other and wants to solidify this chapter of ERGT in the history books for the program.”
Elk River-Zimmerman head coach Jenn Bartlett contributed to this story.