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Mitchell gymnastics ready for ESD meet

Brooke Cersosimo/Republic Mitchell's Josie Dierks performs a vault during a gymnastics meet against Sioux Falls Roosevelt and Wagner earlier this season at Mitchell High School.

Coming off its best meet of the season, the Mitchell Kernels gymnastics team has confidence heading into the Eastern South Dakota Conference meet at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Huron.

"They are really confident in what they're doing, but we're really trying to take one skill at a time and really focus on every single detail and tenth they can make up," Mitchell head coach Audra Rew said.

The Kernels scored a 146.0 in a triangular Jan. 24 in Brookings but have yet to beat their biggest rival Watertown, which has beaten Mitchell head-to-head in five meets this season.

"Right now our motto is that we're going to fight for every tenth, be on top of things the best we can and be ready to take advantage of any mistakes Watertown makes," said Rew, whose team is averaging a team score of 139.7.

The Kernels are heading into the meet as the second-ranked team, but Mitchell isn't fazed by the standings.

"This is such a young team and inexperienced as far as being top in the state, but I feel like they're right where they need to be because they don't think about (standings)," Rew said. "We know that if we do good gymnastics, we could come out on top."

Sophomore Rebecca Sadler said the team is staying focused in the practices leading up to the conference meet.

"We're working perfection," she said. "We're just focusing on certain things to make them the best we can. This weekend we can't focus on the scores and just need to go after our skills."

In gymnastics, there is one event that can often make or break a team's score -- balance beam.

"We can be great on beam and we can make mistakes," Rew said. "It's tough to stay on when you have nerves and pressure. If they are relaxed and doing well during the meet, it's easy to stay confident up there. If we've already made mistakes before beam, it'll be tough."

The Kernels won't know which event -- vault, bars, beam or floor -- they start on until Saturday morning, but they have been doing everything in their power to prepare for the beam rotation.

"We're doing pressure sets and creating scenarios in the gym to mentally prepare them to get in that meet mindset," Rew said. "We're doing all we can in practice and now it's time to see what happens."

The top 12 team scores in the Class AA conference meets, which includes the Greater Dakota Conference, qualify for the Class AA state team competition Feb. 15 in Rapid City.

Gymnasts can also qualify individually at the conference meet. Half of the competitors on each event qualify for the Class AA state individual competition on Feb. 16.

Freshman Quinci Herll and sophomore Ellie Rew have already qualified for the state meet in the all-around by earning a score of 35 in three meets. Senior Nicole Wittstruck and Sadler need to earn an all-around score of 33 to qualify for state this weekend.

Freshman Emily Prill has also pre-qualified individually on the floor, earning a 9.0 at three meets this season. Along with Wittstruck, Sadler and Prill, other Mitchell gymnasts competing this weekend in hopes of qualifying for an individual spot at state are seventh-graders Kayla Kerr and Bailey Roden and eighth-grader Josie Dierks.

Each team can qualify six gymnasts on each event for the individual day of competition at state.

"One of our goals is to qualify all of our competitors for that second day at state," Rew said.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.