One meet away from a state title, Kernel gymnastics keeps its focus
After taking second place in 2022, Mitchell is chasing its eighth state championship in school history.
MITCHELL — It’s been a “one meet at a time” mantra this season for Mitchell’s gymnastics team.
And now with one more meet to go, it’s all in front of the Kernels for a potential Class AA state team championship on Friday in Aberdeen.
“It’s served us very well to this point this season and there’s no reason for us to change or treat this one any differently now,” Mitchell coach Audra Rew said. “This group has bought into exactly what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Aside from a slightly different practice schedule because of a two-day meet, the Kernels are attempting to keep their routine for a typical meet day, which has served them well, winning nine of the 10 events they’ve participated in as a team this season.
“We just try to focus on one meet at a time,” senior Emily Moody said. “It’s been good for us because it’s allowed us to just worry about our routines and what we can control.”
While it doesn’t provide a tangible advantage in the state meet, the Kernels are the No. 1 seed in Class AA based on their qualifying score of 149.000, more than three points ahead of the next closest competitor Harrisburg. It makes Mitchell a favorite to win an eighth state team championship in school history, just as they last did in 2021.
“We just need to be us. I would prefer if our kids never saw a score the entire meet,” Rew said. “I know that’s not going to happen but we just need to focus on what we can control and this group has been good at that all year,”
Balance beam and uneven bars have been two areas where Mitchell has pulled away from their competition. On bars, Mitchell brings in a qualifying score nearly a point ahead of the next-closest team and on balance beam, Mitchell has scored above 37.000 points as a team seven times this season.
At the same time, Mitchell enters the state meet off a very strong effort on floor exercise at the Eastern South Dakota Conference championships and had the No. 1 qualifying score on vault, adding to the balance of the team.
“I think we’ve been a very balanced team all year,” said freshman Olivia Prunty. “We have a lot of girls that can do a lot of tough routines and we have a lot of confidence from that.”
Harrisburg and last season’s champion, Sioux Falls O’Gorman, present the top challenge to the Kernels. With the state’s two best gymnasts in Audrey Meyer and Maeve Boetel, O’Gorman has a high ceiling to compete with the Kernels as they did a season ago, but the Knights’ scoring has not been as consistent. (Boetel did not fully compete in the region meet, leading to O’Gorman’s lower qualifying score.) Harrisburg has cleared 146.000 points three times this season and will be there if either team should stumble. Last season, O’Gorman won with a 150.300, while Mitchell was second at 149.700.
“Last year, I knew O’Gorman could come on strong,” Rew said. “I think it’s a different dynamic this year with some of the injuries and the depth of the teams involved. … I feel like it’s a different year and we’re still climbing with what we can do.”
Rew said they expect to have at least 100 people in attendance in the Kernels’ cheering section, one that is sure to be heard in Aberdeen.
“It is an exciting time and we’re just worried about our part,” Rew said. “We have been a very consistent team this year and we just try to do our job.”
Mitchell will have 12 gymnasts available to compete in the team competition, with seven available for each event. Five gymnasts will compete in each event, with the top-four scores counting to the team total. Eight of them were on the state meet team from 2022.
The Kernels in the team event include seniors Lara Widstrom, Emily Moody, Kyra Gropper and Tessa Allen; junior Harley Goldhammer; sophomores Sidney Malde, Bentley Bates, Aubrey Gelderman, Lainee Forst and Emerson Smith; along with freshmen Olivia Prunty and Kyanna Gropper.