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Mitchell's homegrown talents relish the chance to fulfill a state title dream

A Class AA state title would be No. 8 since 2007 for the Kernels but winning at home would carry special meaning for MHS' gymnasts

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Mitchell's Emily Moody celebrates with her teammates after finishing her floor routine during the ESD gymnastics meet on Saturday, February 5, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — As proof of their journey to becoming Kernels, Audra Rew has the pictures of her current team members when they first started competing in gymnastics.

For some of them, that is as early as two years old, coming to Rew’s MEGA gymnastics facility and learning the skills and becoming the top high school gymnasts in the state.

So in that way, it is fitting that they will be the first Mitchell High School gymnastics team in nearly 40 years and the first in Rew’s era as head coach to come through the MEGA program with a chance to compete for a state championship on Friday in their hometown.

The Kernels are looking for an eighth Class AA team championship since 2007 and a sixth since 2014 but each of those previous victories came in Aberdeen, Brookings or Watertown. The South Dakota High School Activities Association’s state gymnastics meet takes over the Corn Palace on Friday and Saturday. The meet will open with the team competition on Friday, followed by the individual championships on Saturday. On each day, Class A will compete in the morning session starting at 10 a.m., with Class AA competing in the evening session at 4:30 p.m. each day. Tickets are sold on a per-session basis at a price of $12 for adults and $7 for students.

Mitchell’s team participants on Friday include senior Chelsey Mohr, juniors Emily Moody, Kyra Gropper and Tessa Allen, freshmen Sidney Malde, Bentley Bates, Aubrey Gelderman and Joslin Sommerville and eighth-graders Olivia Prunty and Kyanna Gropper.

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In Rew’s program, young Kernels grow under her tutelage in her MEGA club gymnastics program, they learn from high school gymnasts who serve as coaches while excelling and competing for state championships, and the young girls watch and dream of getting a chance to compete like their role models before them. Many of them can name past Kernel gymnasts they looked up to while participating in MEGA’s youth program.

“We have a good reputation through MEGA and you want to keep that going when you get to a meet and compete as a Kernel,” Bates said. “You’re proud to compete as a Kernel.”

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Mitchell's Sidney Malde performs her floor routine during the ESD gymnastics meet on Saturday, February 5, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

Rew said this is the second generation of Kernel gymnasts that she’s overseen from a young age. Previously, she said there was a group of MHS gymnasts that she saw from grades 1-through-5. With this current team, some of them have been coming to Rew and MEGA from soon after they started walking as toddlers.

“It does make me so excited to see all of these kids that have grown up with MEGA since the time they were little,” Rew said. “It’s just a special thing to be with these kids from such a young age.”

What makes this group of Kernels different, Rew said, is that many of them have shown a new level of commitment to gymnastics, both in the high school season and during the club tournaments.

“This is the first group of kids that I’ve had that has gotten to a high level in club program and wants to stay with it. They haven’t quit the club program,” she said. “They want to stick with it and they’re doing both. And they’re still doing track and other Kernel sports and these kids are able to juggle so many things and they want to be the best they can be at everything. I think they realize what a role gymnastics program has played in their life, whether it’s coaching or practicing in the summer or coming in while they’re doing other sports, it doesn’t matter. This is their home. This is where they feel bonded, no matter what they’re doing otherwise, this is where they feel comfortable.”

Being able to share their knowledge with younger gymnasts is something that Kernel gymnasts such as Mohr and Bates are proud to be able to do, such as dealing with the fears of perfecting a certain skill.

“A lot of what they’re going through, we’ve been there, we know what that’s like,” Bates said.

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Mitchell also has the reputation of having those young gymnasts on hand to support the high schools at the state meet. In past years, that’s involved organizing a bus for about 15 of those students to experience what the high school state meet is like. Rew said that won’t be necessary this year, and many of those MEGA gymnasts have prepared good luck messages to be shared with the Kernels before Friday’s meet begins.

“It’s special to get to compete in front of our fans and the people that support us. We know they’re going to have our back,” Mohr said.

Related Topics: GYMNASTICS
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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