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Balance leads Kernels to state gymnastics team title

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The Mitchell High School gymnastics team reacts after hearing Watertown was named the Class AA runner-up, knowing they captured the state championship during the state gymnastics meet on Friday at the Watertown Civic Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)2 / 4
Mitchell's Maria Krall performs her floor routine during the state gymnastics meet on Friday at the Watertown Civic Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)3 / 4
Mitchell head coach Audra Rew hands the Class AA State Championship trophy to her team following the awards ceremony during the state gymnastics meet on Friday at the Watertown Civic Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)4 / 4

WATERTOWN -- It went to the wire but the powerful Mitchell High School gymnastics team wasn’t to be denied Friday.

The Kernels had to hold off a late Watertown charge but Mitchell claimed the Class AA state team gymnastics championship at the Watertown Civic Arena in the South Dakota State Gymnastics Meet.

Mitchell scored 145.750 points, while Watertown finished with 144.525 points, capping a season in which both teams were the top teams in Class AA from start to finish. The victory is Mitchell's fourth state team championship in five years and sixth state title since 2007, all under head coach Audra Rew.

“They announced that we were going to be first and I had a junior hugging one of my seventh-graders,” Rew said. “They’re crying together and that’s what’s great about gymnastics. You’ve got these older kids and these younger ones and it’s not like any other sport. They take care of each other and really bond together and that’s what those kids are going to remember.”

The day had its ups and downs for the Kernels but MHS finished with its third-best team score of the season, thanks in large part to strong efforts on the balance beam and floor exercise.

“We needed beam to be huge in order to score,” Rew said. “It felt like the scores were still a little low, so we were concerned going forward because we knew how good Watertown was on floor. It made things a little nerve-racking, I’m not going to lie.”

Whatever nerves Mitchell had in the final rotation -- the uneven bars -- didn’t show, as Alyssa Hughes (9.175) and Gracie Czmowski both posted solid scores (9.050) before Maria Krall stuck her landing on a flipping dismount for a 9.350 to score a 36.475 as a team on the event.

“We knew we had to relax,” said Czmowski, who dramatically avoided a costly fall during her routine. “We are at our best when we relax and that’s what we all did.”

Mitchell scored a 37.175 as a team on floor exercise, while posting a 37.100 score on balance beam on the opening rotation, powered by a 9.575 from Czmowski and a 9.425 from Krall. The Kernels had a score of 34.950 on vault in the team’s third rotation.

“We were the first team up there and we hit five solid routines,” senior Bailey Roden said of the leadoff effort on beam. “The consistency level we brought and the focus made a difference for us.”

All nine Kernel team members on the roster participated and eight of them contributed individual scores to the team total, showcasing the depth and balance that made the Kernels difficult to beat all season.

That balance was needed to counter Watertown’s dynamic eighth-grader Myah Morris, who scored 38.475 for an all-around score, including a 9.7 on vault to close the Arrows’ scoring for the day. In light of Mitchell’s rough vault rotation, nobody in the Kernels’ camp was completely comfortable until the final scores were announced.  

“We knew we were neck-and-neck with Watertown but we knew if we hit (on bars), we had it,” Krall said.

Krall was second in all-around scoring among team competition participants with a 36.875. Czmowski and Hughes were second and third in the uneven bars, with Krall fifth. Krall’s vault (9.050) was third-best for the day,

Mitchell turns its focus to the individual competition, which starts at 10:30 a.m. today. Rew said if the Kernels can replicate their performance from Friday, they’ll have success again.

“We always approach the second day like a team,” Rew said. “Have each other’s backs and do your job and we’ll see where we’re at the end of the day.”

NOTES: Mitchell assistant coach Christine Wittstruck was honored as the South Dakota High School Coaches Association’s assistant gymnastics coach of the year. … Friday’s results marked the ninth time Mitchell has finished either first or second in Class AA since 2006.  

Class AA state gymnastics

Team competition

Friday -- at Watertown Civic Arena

Team scores: 1. Mitchell 145.700, 2. Watertown 144.375, 3. Brookings 139.800, 4. Sioux Falls O’Gorman 138.225, 5. Pierre 136.675, 6. Rapid City Stevens 136.125, 7. Yankton 132.350, 8. Sioux Falls Lincoln 131.650, 9. Huron 130.225.

Event scores

Vault: 1. Watertown 35.825, 2. Pierre 34.975, 3. Mitchell 34.950, 4. O’Gorman 34.300, 5. Brookings 34.100, 6. Yankton 34.025, 7. Stevens 33.950, 8. Lincoln 33.925, 9. Huron 33.500.

Uneven bars: 1. Mitchell 36.475, 2. Watertown 35.325, 3. Brookings 34.025, 4. O’Gorman 33.475, 5. Pierre 32.750, 6. Stevens 32.550, 7. Yankton 30.575, 8. Huron 30.175, 9. Lincoln 29.850.

Balance beam: 1. Mitchell 37.100, 2. Watertown 35.225, 3. Brookings 34.875, 4. O’Gorman 34.700, 5. Stevens 34.125, 6. Lincoln 33.125, 7. Yankton 32.700, 8. Pierre 32.575, 9. Huron 31.525.

Floor exercise: 1. Watertown 38.000, 2. Mitchell 37.175, 3. Brookings 36.800, 4. Pierre 36.375, 5. O’Gorman 35.750, 6. Stevens 35.500, 7. Yankton 35.050, 8. Huron 35.025, 9. Lincoln 34.750.

Mitchell event scoring

Vault: Maria Krall, 9.050; Bailey Roden, 8.700; Kailee Henglefelt, 8.700; Emily Moody, 8.500; Kaylee Bauder, 8.450

Uneven bars: Czmowski, 9.350; Alyssa Hughes, 9.150; Krall, 9.050; Bauder, 8.900; Roden, 8.425.

Balance beam: Czmowski, 9.575; Krall, 9.425; Masy Mock, 9.050; Bauder, 9.050; Henglefelt, 8.850.

Floor exercise: Krall, 9.350; Hughes, 9.350; Czmowski, 9.325; Mock, 9.150; Kyra Gropper, 9.100.