Maria Krall enjoys shining on her sport's brightest stage.
The Mitchell High School senior gymnast will compete in her final state gymnastics meet today and Saturday at the Swiftel Center in Brookings.
It will be the culmination of a dazzling gymnastics career, which she began as a seventh grader after competing in extreme cheer for a short period. But gymnastics was her sport because it tested her to be at her best.
"I liked the fact that I had to challenge myself and I kind of like being in challenging situations and there's also a lot of pressure when it comes with gymnastics," Krall said. "I feel like I just found what I like and everything and I found my friends here. It just has been my life ever since."
And she's learned plenty of life lessons through the sport.
"I used to have a negative mindset, and like telling myself I couldn't do it," Krall said. "I learned in gymnastics if you set your mind to something and tell yourself positive thoughts, that you can do whatever you want."
It has showed in her routines. Mitchell gymnastics coach Audra Rew used words like "captivating" and "powerful" to describe her senior gymnast. Krall has become a regular top finisher at the state meet, taking second in the all-around and vault, third in the uneven bars and floor exercise and fourth in the balance beam in 2018. In the past four state meets, Krall has finished in the top-10 individually 14 times. As a team, Mitchell makes a bid for its fifth Class AA team title in six years today.
"She's so powerful and fun to watch that it's just very captivating when you watch her and I think the judges are very awed by her dynamics," Rew said. "Everything is big and powerful and wow. Nothing is little when she does it. It's always big and always a wow factor."
Rew said those traits had to be developed through time, especially on the beam.
"She can do the exact same routine as somebody else, and it is going to outscore them every day of the week," Rew said. "Because she knows how to compete and knows how to make adjustments and stay on that beam and not make it look like a wobble or a deduction and so she just has a great presence about her."
Krall's day-to-day presence also make her shine in the sport.
"I feel that she has taught everybody around her through ups and downs you can have bad days and still come back and be amazing the very next day," Rew said. "I think it's just life lessons of things aren't always easy, but you can always rise to the top if you choose to and Maria is very kind-hearted and takes the younger ones in and is very nice to everyone. (She's) a great leader that way."
That leader label was attached even stronger this season. Krall felt she had to step up in her leadership role this senior campaign with the heightened expectations.
"This year, I found myself under a lot of pressure because it's my last time ever and everyone was watching," Krall said. "It was definitely a lot more pressure this year than the previous years."
But she continued to shine in those pressure moments this year.
"I feel like I did pretty well," Krall said about her senior season. "I tried to manage my pressure and my emotions. I tried to keep them under control and there was some meets I just totally bombed, but that's OK. I have learned from that and going into state, I feel really confident that we are going to do well."
Today and Saturday will be Krall's final competition in gymnastics. She's opting to focus on academics in college and will attend the University of South Dakota to study dental hygiene.
"I have just had an amazing experience and it's bittersweet it's coming to an end," she said. "But I am thankful for all the friendships and lessons I have learned from this sport."