Individuals will have harder time making state meet in gymnasticsThe South Dakota High School Activities Association approved two major changes to high school gymnastics at their annual Board of Directors meeting Tuesday in Pierre.
By: Travis Mester, The Daily Republic
The South Dakota High School Activities Association approved two major changes to high school gymnastics at its annual board of directors meeting Tuesday in Pierre.
The most relevant change was the passing of the proposal to eliminate the region meet in Class AA and use conference meets as the state-qualifying meet, Mitchell coach Audra Rew said.
“Anytime you lose an opportunity for the kids, it disappoints me,” Rew said. “I understand why we’re doing it; obviously, money is an issue.”
Up until last season, Class AA gymnastics teams could have seven individuals compete in each event at conference meets. Then, a week later, teams would go to their region meets, where coaches could have six individuals compete for the chance to qualify for state as an individual.
Now, Mitchell will have only the Eastern South Dakota Conference Meet, where teams will be allowed six competitors per event, to qualify for state.
The Kernels did not compete at the ESD meet last season because weather did not allow them to travel.
“Sometimes, the difference between your fifth, sixth and seventh gymnasts isn’t that much,” said Rew, whose team finished sixth at last season’s state meet in Watertown. “Now, you’re not going to be able to get them into a competition to really see how they’re going to perform; you’re going to have to make a judgment call and that’s going to make it tough.”
With the region meet being taken away and the ability to qualify individually for the state meet becoming more difficult, Rew was hoping the in-season state-qualifying standards would go down a bit.
That did not happen.
To qualify in-season for the state meet, a gymnast must score a 9.0 or better three times in an event.
“What we as coaches tried to say during the season was that, if you’re going to take away our region meet, we wanted to make it easier to qualify in-season,” said Rew, who added that only "five or six" girls in the state met the qualifying standards in-season last season. “Just like track has a time they have to meet, we have a score we have to meet. But that score is pretty tough to get.
“It’s tough to get a 9.0. We were hoping they would lower that a little bit, even to an 8.9 or an 8.85, but that just didn’t go through.”
The other major change the board approved was lowering the amount of teams that make the Class AA state meet from 12 to 10. Last season, there were 13 gymnastics teams in the state in Class AA, but Rapid City Stevens did not have enough gymnasts to qualify. Therefore, all 12 eligible teams made the state meet.
Rew said money concerns and time-saving measures were the main reasons the state meet will host less teams in the future.
“The concern is that, if we start eliminating opportunities to go to state, gymnastics may be dropped by some schools,” Rew said.
In March 2010, Mitchell school officials proposed eliminating gymnastics in order to add cheer as an official sport, with the goal of raising female participation rates. Instead, a gymnastics parent group proposed paying for half of the sport’s budget to keep it school-sanctioned. Before this past season started, the group raised $8,000 and the Mitchell gymnastics program stayed intact, while cheer was added.
The gymnastics parent group has agreed to contribute the same amount of money each year to keep the sport.
Rew said she is looking for alternative opportunities within the Kernels’ schedule next season to help alleviate the struggles that not having a region meet will present. As is, Mitchell would have two weeks off between the ESD meet and the state meet.
“That’s a long time,” Rew said. “We’re trying to look at maybe moving the Mitchell Invite and making it an individual invite.
“Maybe something like that will be a possibility just to spread the meets out and give the individuals one final chance to get a 9.0; it’s just going to be tough and we’ll have to see how it goes.”
Other changes the board approved included realigning the regions to match the ESD and Greater Dakota Conference affiliation of schools. Mitchell is now a part of Region 1, along with Aberdeen Central/Roncalli, Brookings, Huron, Pierre, Watertown and Yankton/Bon Homme. Last season, there were four regions and Mitchell was in Region 3 with Huron and Aberdeen Central/Roncalli.