Mitchell to host ESD, state gymnastics meet for the first time since 1983

Mitchell will host the Jill McCormick Invitational, ESD state qualifier and the Class AA state meet at the Corn Palace.

Mitchell High School gymnastics head coach Audra Rew along with Carl Niehoff, left, and Steve Easton, back, set up the uneven bars on the stage inside the Corn Palace in preparation for the Jill McCormick Invitational on Saturday. Mitchell and the Corn Palace will be host not only for the Jill McCormick Invite but also the host site for the ESD and the 2022 state championships. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

For the first time since 1983, the Mitchell High School gymnastics team will host the Eastern South Dakota Conference meet, as well as the Class AA state meet, in February 2022 at the Corn Palace.

The Kernels are coming off their seventh state title since 2007 and the last time they hosted both ESD and state, coach Audra Rew was a part of Mitchell's gymnastics team that placed second at state.

Given the opportunity to win the ESD state qualifier and the Class AA state title meet at home for the first time in school history, Rew said the team is ecstatic about hosting the events, but she preferred not to host both of these big events in the span of a week.

“We’ve known this has been coming for several years and we’re pretty excited about hosting ESD and state,” Rew said. “It wasn't supposed to be ESD and state in the same year and that would not be my preference. … Moving equipment is very difficult and it takes a day and a half to get everything set up and with the Corn Palace being a shared venue with Mitchell High School, DWU and the public, it can be difficult to get in with enough time to set up.”

Running a state youth meet five years ago served as proof to the South Dakota High School Activities Association that Mitchell could run such a big event smoothly. Their bid was accepted and they were granted the opportunity to host the gymnastics state competition in 2022.


Mitchell was on schedule to host ESD in 2020, but because Harrisburg was added to the conference, the alphabetical rotation between schools hosting ESD pushed Mitchell back to 2021.

This season, Mitchell also decided to host its annual Jill McCormick Invitational — an 11-team event — at the Corn Palace instead of at the high school or the MEGA Gymnastics facility.

“This year we were able to secure the Corn Palace for the Jill McCormick invite and that’s always been our goal to host it there, but sometimes due to basketball games, it doesn’t always happen,” Rew said. “It’ll be nice because it gives us an extra opportunity to see how things are going to work for ESD and state meet down the road.”

Rew said there’s no real adjustment for her gymnasts to perform in the Corn Palace, but the preparation with equipment will be the biggest challenge. As they prepare for the Jill McCormick Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 18, the Kernels began preparing for the event after the Mitchell girls basketball game ended on Thursday.

As Mitchell brings back Bentley Bates and Kyanna Gropper from injury, they have a decision on which gymnasts will perform together to make the best scoring team. The Kernels have finished first in each of its four meets this season and their goal is to break the school record of 150.65.

“The Corn Palace will bring a little extra adrenaline, but our goal is to break some records,” Rew said. “The Corn Palace is the premier facility in town and it makes them feel special and they should feel special. This team has done great things over the last few years and I think they’re really excited to show off their abilities. We’re setting big goals for ourselves just to push us as individuals.”

Mitchell head coach Audra Rew talks to her gymnasts before competing on the vault during a quadrangular on Dec. 9 at MEGA gymnastics in Mitchell. The Kernels host the Jill McCormick Invitational on Saturday at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

Related Topics: GYMNASTICS
Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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