The 2019 outlook for the Watertown-Mayer/Mound Westonka gymnastics is an interesting one. The Royals lost a lot of talent – six members from the state tournament team are gone. But despite the loss, the Royals should be end up being in the same spot come postseason as they always are, thanks to experienced underclassmen returning and a shakeup of the Class A landscape.
The first part of the equation for this team is the roster shakeup. Six gymnasts who competed at the state meet last season are not returning this season.
“We have a smaller team this year and there are a lot of holes to fill,” coach Steven Hangartner said. “But that just gives another person an opportunity to step up.”
The Royals are young this season, but that does not mean they are lacking in experience. WMMW had never had a sophomore captain before, now they have three – Anna Mielke, Ella Blinkhorn and Anja Gilbert. The Royals also have junior Rosie Unglaub as a captain. In addition to the captains, who were at the state meet last season, Erin Singsank and Maris Heun return with postseason experience to give WMMW plenty of gymnasts who have competed at the highest level.
Part of the reason for so many state competitors returning despite so many leaving comes from the tough season WMMW had last year. With so many injuries, the Royals had lots athletes stepping into varsity roles at various times, and that experience should help this season. So even though they lose a lot of talent, they had to compete last year without their top gymnasts and still earned a state berth while going 9/9 at sections for individual qualifiers.
“One meet we had no seniors competing and we still did pretty well,” Hangartner said.
The other reason the Royals have a similar goal compared to past seasons (go back to state and finish in the top five) is that Class A looks drastically different this year. Several teams with state experience have bumped up to Class AA - Waconia, Sartell-St. Stephen and Mahtomedi, meaning two teams that finished higher than WMMW at state last year are no longer in Class A.
So despite all of the changes, the Royals should be about the same spot they always are when the season comes to an end.