Excitement is once again building for the Mitchell High School gymnastics team.

The powerhouse Kernels finished second in the Class AA last season as they attempted to win their second straight championship. Mitchell had won five of the past six state titles prior to last season.

Mitchell will again be gunning for the Class AA state title in February. But while that’s the ultimate goal, the Kernels will use the next couple of months to hone their skills.

“Instead of just the same old gymnastics, we are really trying to be creative to come up with skills that work for each athlete,” Mitchell coach Audra Rew said. “I think it just gives them an excitement like if you can’t do this skill on beam, you go over and try this skill on beam and so everybody doesn’t have to do the same exact routine. We can come up with something different that works to each athlete’s strengths.”

Rew anticipates the team’s strengths will be on the uneven bars, while also working to improve the other routines.

“I feel like floor is going to improve a lot for us over last year,” Rew said. “I feel like vault is going to improve over last year and hopefully beam improves. Last year was not a great beam year until state meet. So I am hoping that we can just get more confident on beam and perform better on beam. It’s not really about the skills. It’s about being able to hit a beam routine when they need to.”

The Kernels return a host of gymnasts with state-meet experience. Freshman Kyra Gropper has two years of high school action under her belt and Rew expects another jump from her this season.

“Kyra Gropper has really stepped it up in the offseason and learned a lot of new skills and is just a very solid competitor for us,” Rew said. “So she’s going to have a fantastic year.”

Sophomore Gracie Czmowski is also ready for a fantastic year after missing time in recent seasons.

“We have Gracie back this year,” Rew said. “So that will be great for us. She just really hasn’t had an opportunity to have a fantastic high school season yet and meet her potential due to injuries since her seventh grade year. So I am excited to see gracie meet her full potential.”

Freshman Emily Moody has made strides in the offseason, said Rew. Sophomore Alyssa Hughes has been slowed by illness during the preseason, but Rew expects her to bolster the lineup later in the season. Junior Masy Mock will again be strong on beam and floor, while also adding some leadership to the team.

“I feel like Masy’s leadership skills with such a young team are what this team needs,” Rew said.

The Kernels are expected again to battle it out all season with Eastern South Dakota Conference foe and defending state champ Watertown. Rew expects Sioux Falls O’Gorman and Brookings to be among state contenders, while Harrisburg and Sioux Falls Lincoln are on the rise.

The Kernels will host the Mitchell Triangular on Monday against Yankton and Parkston/Ethan/Hanson at 6 p.m. at MEGA.