Floor effort spurs Kernels to fourth-straight ESD gymnastics title

For the fourth consecutive season, the Mitchell Kernels gymnastics team claimed the Eastern South Dakota Conference title on Saturday.

Mitchell's Bentley Bates (left) poses after competing on the bar as her coach Audra Rew (right) celebrates during a gymnastics quadrangular on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, at the MEGA gymnastics gym.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

PIERRE -- For the fourth consecutive season, the Mitchell Kernels gymnastics team claimed the Eastern South Dakota Conference title on Saturday.

The Kernels scored 149.000 points, good enough to best Harrisburg (145.825) by more than three full points in Pierre. It was the second consecutive meet Mitchell has scored at least 149.000 points as a team after scoring a season-best 149.100 at home on Jan. 26.

The effort was led by the top performance of the season on balance beam, with Mitchell scoring 38.100 points. Bentley Bates won the event with a score of 9.550, sharing the event title with Meredith Hruby, of Harrisburg. Kyra Gropper and Emily Moody tied for third (9.525) and Olivia Prunty had fifth-place finish (9.500).

“We haven’t started on floor all year, and the way we performed set the tone for the whole meet,” Mitchell coach Audra Rew said. “It was the best we’ve done all year on floor and we really carried through the meet. We didn’t have a lot of mistakes and I thought we were calm and confident.”

It was an exceptional day for both Moody and Bates. Moody, a senior, was second in the all-around behind Harrisburg’s Katelyn Maeschen (37.575) with a score of 37.050. Prunty was third in the all-around (36.860) and Kyra Gropper was fourth (36.675), with Kyanna Gropper seventh (36.100).


“It was probably Emily’s best meet of the year,” Rew said. “I’m really proud of where she’s come from, given she started the year with an injury and she’s worked her way back. She looks like she’s really starting to peak.”

Bates, who also has worked back from an injury this season, won the two events she competes in -- floor exercise and won the uneven bars with a 9.625, the highest score for any gymnast in any event on the day. Aside from Maeschen in second (9.400), the rest of the top-five was filled with Kernels, with Kyra Gropper (9.350), Kyanna Gropper (9.200) and Moody (9.025) filling out slots 3-through-5. Olivia Prunty was eighth (8.775) and Harley Goldammer was 10th (8.625) for Mitchell.

“She won two events and she only does two events, so you can’t ask for much more than that,” Rew said of Bates. “She qualified for (individual state meet) floor (today), because she had only done it once. She’s been working her routine really hard and she’s a seasoned veteran, so we wanted to make her routine as easy as we could for her to score well with and she made it a good combination.”

On vault, Prunty tied for second (9.300) as Maeschen won with a 9.325. Moody took fifth (9.175), with Kyanna Gropper seventh (8.875) and Tessa Allen ninth (8.775). On beam, Harrisburg’s Kiah Boetel was the champion (9.550), with Kyra Gropper tying for second place with Maeschen (9.500), Aubrey Gelderman taking fourth place (9.475), Moody in fifth (9.325) and Prunty in sixth (9.275).

“I was just really excited about their performance and especially for where we’re at in the year,” Rew said of the team. “I loved where they were mentally.”

Mitchell goes to the Class AA state meet on Friday, Feb. 10 at Aberdeen Central High School with the state’s top team qualifying score, with Harrisburg second (145.825), O’Gorman (141.925) third, Brookings (141.725) fourth and Watertown fifth (136.625).

The Kernels will compete at 10 a.m. Friday in the team competition, while the individual competition is Saturday, Feb. 11.

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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