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Mitchell sophomore Quincy Herll performs a 1 1/2 twist during a floor routine at the Mitchell Kernel gymnastics team’s practice Friday at the high school. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)

With the Kernels climbing in the ranks in the past few years, Mitchell head gymnastics coach Audra Rew knows this team has the potential to go after a state championship.

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The Kernels return all but one of their varsity competitors from last year’s third-place team. Rew said her team has worked hard in the offseason to get to this point.

“My entire team works out year round and does club, so getting back in shape for season is easy for them,” the eighth-year coach said. “I’m really about how they increased the value of their routines over the summer and how hard they worked. I don’t think they realize how much better they look than they did last year.

“These girls have increased their value enough to make up for the person we lost.”

The Kernels open the season tonight in a triangular against Sioux Falls Washington and Yankton. The meet begins at 6:30 p.m. in Yankton.

Returning for Mitchell is sophomore Quincy Herll, who was the team’s top competitor as a freshman. She took sixth in the all-around, fourth on vault and sixth on uneven bars last year. Another Kernel who is returning from an injury-filled season last year is junior Rebecca Sadler. Sadler was sidelined from a foot injury for much of her sophomore year, returning just before the state meet. At state, she tied with Herll for sixth on uneven bars.

Rew said Sadler’s quiet season last year has made her determined to make her mark.

“It’s made her so hungry to go out there and fight for everything and really work harder than I’ve ever seen,” she said. “She’s going to be right up there with Quincy and she’s a completely different gymnast than she was last year.”

The Kernels also return junior Ellie Rew, sophomore Emily Prill and freshman Josie Dierks. Rew took 10th in all-around last year, while Prill and Dierks also each placed at the state meet.

All five of these gymnasts will compete in the all-around this season and Rew said they will be counted on to lead the team.

“I’m relying on my five high schoolers for leadership,” she said. “They have a great work ethic and that has really brought our younger girls around much quicker than normal.”

Eighth-graders Kayla Kerr and Bailey Roden are also returning with varsity experience.

Rapid City Central graduated two seniors off last year’s state championship team, while runner-up Watertown also lost two gymnasts to graduation and another top-performer to injury, according to Rew. She added Sioux Falls O’Gorman, which finished fourth behind the Kernels last year, will be a tough team to beat this season.

“I feel like O’Gorman is the team to beat this year, but with Sioux Falls and Rapid City teams, you never know what club gymnasts they’re going to get throughout the season,” she said. “We need to focus on ourselves and do the best job we can and not worry about the other teams.”

Heading into today’s season opener, Rew said the Kernels have approached this season more relaxed than in the past.

“Our teams have been very prepared and ready to go the first meet of the year, and I feel like we’ve peaked just a little too early in the past,” Rew said. “They’ve added a lot of new skills but we don’t need those big skills yet, so if they aren’t there on the day of the meet, they won’t do them.

“There’s always fine tuning to do and things you want better, but right now, I want the girls confident. I want them 100 percent believing in themselves and feeling great about their skills.”

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