Kernel gymnasts achieve season-high score, place second at state

ABERDEEN -- The Mitchell Kernels gymnastics team was in the hunt for a fourth straight Class AA state championship Friday afternoon. But to do so, the Kernels would likely need a few slip-ups from a talented Watertown squad. The Arrows didn't mak...

Mitchell's Bailey Roden competes on the beam during the state gymnastics meet on Friday at the Golden Eagles Arena in Aberdeen. (Matt Gade / Republic)

ABERDEEN -- The Mitchell Kernels gymnastics team was in the hunt for a fourth straight Class AA state championship Friday afternoon.

But to do so, the Kernels would likely need a few slip-ups from a talented Watertown squad.

The Arrows didn’t make many mistakes.

Instead, Mitchell closed its day with a flourish on the balance beam and floor exercise routines to claim state runner-up honors at Golden Eagles Arena in Aberdeen.

The Arrows scored 146.650 points, topping Mitchell's score of 145.675. Rapid City Stevens was third with 141.750 points.


The streak of state championship ends at three for Mitchell but it's the eighth time in the last 12 seasons that Mitchell has finished either as state champions or runners-up. The Kernels won the 2014, 2015 and 2016 state championships as a team.

In the moments following the trophy presentation, Mitchell coach Audra Rew said this season’s state runner-up team is among the most special Kernel teams in her career.

“I wanted them to go out and compete the way they have all year, just like they do in practice, do the best job they can at the state meet. I could not have asked for them do any more … they just did an amazing job,” Rew said.  

Mitchell’s day started with a less-than-stellar rotation on vault (35.050) and that carried over to the uneven bars (35.950), which is usually one of Mitchell’s strongest events. That led to a break for Mitchell, more than 40 minutes away from the competition floor. In that moment, Rew said she told the team to stick with what they could control.

“Don’t overthink it,” Rew said, of the message. “Don’t over do it, don’t under do it. Just do what you do.”

From there, the Kernels went out and did what they hadn’t done all season, digging deep for high scores. Mitchell scored a 36.875 on beam and a season-best 37.800 points on floor. The team score of 145.675 was a season-high for the Kernels.

“It was really special that we went out there and hit our routines when it really counted,” senior Josie Dierks said. “This was our season-best score and that’s what you want at the state meet.”

After denying Mitchell a fourth-straight Eastern South Dakota Conference title last week, the Arrows were favorites entering the day Friday. And Watertown delivered, finishing tops for the day in three events -- vault (36.650), uneven bars (36.450) and floor exercise (38.225) -- with Mitchell posting the day’s best score on balance beam (36.875).


The Kernels’ success on beam at Golden Eagles Arena Friday brought back special memories for the Kernels. It’s where MHS nailed down a state championship in 2014, the first in the three-year run of success and where Brooke Cersosimo scored a perfect 10 score during the 2007 state meet, the first in South Dakota prep history. Even this season, Mitchell’s two best beam scores came in Aberdeen, as the Kernels scored 37.000 as a team at the Hub City Invite Dec. 10.

“We have a lot of history on Aberdeen Central’s balance beam,” Rew said. “We love that balance beam.”

On Watertown’s end, the Arrows didn’t make many mistakes. Mitchell was within six-tenths of a point with both teams heading to the final rotation when the Arrows scored a 38.225 on floor exercise, with no score less than 9.350. Brooke Bollinger closed the rotation with a 9.7 on floor, giving the Arrows an insurmountable lead.

“We knew they were going to follow us on every event and that can be a head-up for them,” Watertown coach Vicky Fisher said. “But we wanted to make sure that when we went out on our events, that we made our mark and let it be known that Watertown was here.”

Dierks, the team’s lone senior, said even after being on three state title teams, it was the second-place finish that carried extra meaning.

“This wasn’t easy and we had to work for it,” she said. “There might have been years where winning the title was right there for us but we worked hard this year and I’m certainly proud of this season, probably more than the others because of the friends on this team.”

After a strong day Friday, Mitchell will follow it up at 10:30 a.m. today, in pursuit of individual hardware. Rew said she would try to have the Kernels still compete as a unit, even with the individual scoring format. She said she thinks Mitchell still has more to show at the meet.

“I don’t think our team is done,” she said. “I think we’ve got some kids that are going to have some great performances on day two.”



Class AA team championships Friday at Aberdeen Team scores1. Watertown 146.650, 2. Mitchell 145.675, 3. Rapid City Stevens 141.775, 4. Yankton 141.525, 5. Sioux Falls O’Gorman 138.075, 6. Brookings 137.325, 7. Aberdeen 135.450, 8. Pierre 134.075, 9. Sioux Falls Roosevelt 132.725. Team scores by event Vault: 1. Watertown 36.650, 2. Aberdeen Central 35.275, 3. Mitchell 35.050, 4. Yankton 34.975, 5. SF O’Gorman 34.775, 6. RC Stevens 34.375, 7. Pierre 34.125, 8. SF Roosevelt 33.675, 9. Brookings 33.075. Bars: 1. Watertown 36.450, 2. RC Stevens 36.200, 3. Mitchell 35.950, 4. Yankton 35.025, 5. Brookings 34.575, 6. SF O’Gorman 34.225, 7. Aberdeen Central 33.8, 8. Pierre 33.275, 9. SF Roosevelt 32.800. Beam: 1. Mitchell 36.875, 2. Watertown 35.325, 3. Yankton 35.050, 4. RC Stevens 34.175, 5. Brookings 33.325, 6. SF O’Gorman 33.125, 7. SF Roosevelt 31.425, 8. Aberdeen Central 30.450, 9. Pierre 30.025. Floor: 1. Watertown 38.225, 2. Mitchell 37.800, 3. RC Stevens 37.025, 4. Pierre 36.650, 5. Yankton 36.475, 6. Brookings 36.350, 7. SF O’Gorman 35.950, 8. Aberdeen Central 35.925, 9. SF Roosevelt 34.825.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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