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Mitchell's Rew joins coaches club with five titles

BROOKINGS -- Like her team, Mitchell High School gymnastics coach Audra Rew clinched her spot in South Dakota's gymnastics record books on Friday. Rew became the sixth coach in state gymnastics history to lead a team to five state championships a...

BROOKINGS - Like her team, Mitchell High School gymnastics coach Audra Rew clinched her spot in South Dakota's gymnastics record books on Friday.

Rew became the sixth coach in state gymnastics history to lead a team to five state championships and she's the third coach to do it in Class AA.

In Class AA, she joins Lolly Forseth, who coached eight championship winning teams in Sioux Falls and Sheri Keck, who won six championships between 1994 and 2001 at Rapid City Stevens. In Class A, Linda Collignon won seven straight championships with Madison from 1995 to 2001 and Mark Upward won seven titles at Vermillion from 1982 to 1994. Until Friday, current Madison coach Maridee Dossett was also among those with seven championships until the Bulldogs earned her No. 8 with a convincing Class A title. She's now tied with Forseth all-time for coaching championships.

Rew said she hasn't given her place among the state's greats much thought but thanked her gymnasts over the years and said she's just honored by the company she's joining.

"When I look back at the top gymnastics coaches that have won a lot of titles, I'm in awe of the idea that I'm possibly in that category with them because it's a pretty spectacular group of coaches. I'm humbled by the fact that I might even be in that conversation. I haven't really thought about it."

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Senior Quinci Herll said Rew is a tremendous coach, one that pushes the team even when it might be hard and said her commitment is what makes Mitchell's program so strong.

Rew conceded that the titles are starting to "add up" and said it's an accomplishment to the Kernels and the powerhouse programs of the past.

"It's kind of adding up," she said. "You take one year at a time and I don't really think about it but I know some of those coaches and I've competed against those teams and I've had a lot of respect for those coaches."

MEGA impact

One benefit the Kernels had during their 2015-16 championship season is that they stayed relatively healthy. Following Friday's championship celebration, Rew said a major reason for that is because the Mitchell team has spent a full season in the MEGA gymnastics center, which opened last year.

The 13,500-square foot building replaced the Knights of Columbus Hall MEGA was renting from Holy Family Catholic Church and that required gymnasts to start their vaults from the entryway of the building. MEGA, Mitchell's competitive gymnastics club, has about 250 gymnasts in its program spanning ages 5 to 18.

The renovated facility on Kay Avenue allowed for more space for uneven bars, vaults, floor exercise and balance beam. The building includes a tumble tramp and cushioned pit.

"I think it's had a huge impact on our team," she said. "We're not beating up our ankles on hard landings because they're nice and soft. That's really helped."

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Rew said she's diligent about keeping the team healthy.

"We work really hard to keep our team to healthy," she said. "We condition and we stay up on it to try to hold some of our girls out if they're injured so they could be ready when we needed them."

Knippling receives coaching award

Chamberlain coach Sherri Knippling was honored Friday for her service to high school gymnastics in South Dakota, receiving the Coaches Leadership Award from the South Dakota Gymnastics Judges Association.

A Whitewood native, Knippling has been the Cubs coach for 22 years. She's been in gymnastics since she was able to pick it as an elective at Sturgis Junior High as a seventh grader. She judged gymnastics for a few years before getting a chance to coach at Chamberlain, where there's been competitive gymnastics since 1976. The school has only had two coaches. Norma Johnson was the coach of the Cubs until 1994 when Knippling stepped in.

"I was extremely honored," she said. "I was blown away by it and you always feel there's someone more deserving but it means a lot to me. I can't thank my parents and the other coaches in the state enough. They've taught me a lot and mentored me along the way."

ESD streak continues

Mitchell's first place finish means an Eastern South Dakota Conference school has finished either champion or runner-up in each of the last 14 state meets. In every year since 2002, the ESD has had a top-two finish. Before then, an ESD team hadn't reached the champion or runner-up column since 1994.

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Breakout

Winningest Class AA gymnastics coaches in South Dakota history:

8 - Lolly Forseth (1974-77 at Washington, 82-83 and 85-86 at Lincoln)

6 - Sheri Keck (1994-95, 1997-99, 2001 at Rapid City Stevens)

5 - Audra Rew (2007-08 and 2014-16 at Mitchell)

All classes:

8 - Maridee Dossett (2006-10 and 2014-16 at Madison)

7 - Mark Upward (1982-84, 1988-89 and 1993-94 at Vermillion)

7 - Linda Collignon (1995-2001 at Madison)

Related Topics: KERNELSCHAMBERLAINGYMNASTICS
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 mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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