It’s been more than a quarter of a century since the Elk River Elks participated as a team in the state gymnastics tournament. But on Feb. 13 at Champlin Park High School, the Elks clinched a berth in the Class 2A gymnastics tournament.
The No. 4 Elks (11-1) finished first in the team competition with a score of 144.525 to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 1994.
Head coach Jennifer Bartlett said it feels great to be advancing to the state tournament for the first time in 26 years.
"The girls have worked hard for it," Bartlett said. "Now, we can have some real fun. The state tournament is electrifying. Roy Wilkins Auditorium is where I competed as a gymnast for state. It's fun to bring the girls home. These girls deserve to be on that stage. They keep moving up the rankings. They're ready to prove themselves."
The public address announcer at Champlin Park High School paused before announcing that Maple Grove finished in second place. The Elks were in shock and in tears after winning the Section 5-2A championship. After formally being announced as the section champion, Elk River stood on the podium with pride as the Elks led by captain Miranda Schweiger held the section trophy up for all to see.
"It felt great because we've been working hard all season," Schweiger said. "It's finally come together."
After the awards ceremony, gymnasts hugged relatives and friends before taking a team picture with the trophy.
Senior and team manager Corina Sandy said believed that Elk River had a chance to go to the state tournament when the season started.
"It was difficult at the beginning of the season," Sandy said. "We had a lot of room to grow, but I believed that we could become section champs."
On vault, the Elks finished second with 36 points. Maple Grove finished first with a score of 36.075. Junior Abby Rekstad finished fifth with a score of 9.4 and will advance to complete in the individual portion of the state tournament on Feb. 22. Freshman Jaelyn Sorenson finished eighth with a score of 9.1 and Cadence Martie finished 10th with a score of 8.825.
Elk River finished second on bars with a score of 34.475. Leading the way for the Elks was sophomore Ava Cole, who finished fifth with a score of 9.3. Schweiger tied for ninth place along with St. Michael-Albertville's Jackie Bergeron. Rekstad finished 11th with a score of 8.425. Cole will compete on bars in the individual competition of the state tournament.
The Elks finished first on beam with a score of 37.175. Sorenson and Rekstad finished second and third behind Park Center's Annika Lee. Sorenson received a score of 9.525 while Rekstad earned a 9.5. Zoe Johnson finished fifth with a score of 9.175 and Martie finished eighth with a score of 8.975. Johnson, Rekstad and Sorenson will all compete in beam on Feb. 22.
Elk River finished first on floor with a score of 36.875. Sorenson finished third with a score of 9.55 while Rekstad finished third with a score of 9.375. Senior Emily Dalrymple finished 10th with a score of 9.025. Sorenson will compete on floor during the individual competition on Feb. 22.
Bartlett said the team's mantra of "tenth at a time" has worked all season long.
"Everybody can find a way to point a toe harder or straighten a leg a little harder," she said. "If everybody does that, we add .4 [points] per event. If we do that, we add 1.6 per the total team score. Today, we were a little off of our game in a couple of areas, but it's a team to state. There are still some individuals, but we keep working hard to make sure that we're fighting for each other."
Elk River will compete at the 2020 State Gymnastics tournament on Feb. 21 at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul. Because the Elks are in Class 2A, they will compete at 6 p.m. while the Class A schools will compete at 11 a.m.
The Class 2A individual portion of the tournament will be held on Feb. 22 at Roy Wilkins Auditorium at 6 p.m. Four Elks: Cole, Johnson, Rekstad and Sorenson will represent Elk River in the individual competition.
Bartlett said her goal is for the Elks to have fun and enjoy the experience while still trying to do well.
"The worst you can do at the state tournament is eighth place," Bartlett said. "We're hoping not to go last, but we'd like to match our ranking if not be higher [and] get a medal."
Sandy said she believes the Elks have what it takes to become state champions.
"If they set their minds to it, they definitely can," she said.