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With five leading gymnasts, Mitchell Kernels have luxury of depth for championship run

Between Kyra Gropper, Bentley Bates, Olivia Prunty and Joslin Sommerville and Emily Moody, Mitchell has five capable No. 1 all-around gymnasts at any time.

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Mitchell's Joslin Sommerville competes on the uneven bars during a gymnastics meet on Dec. 9, 2021 at the MEGA Gymnastics facility in Mitchell.
Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — The Mitchell High School gymnastics team has not had the luxury this season of having one go-to gymnast in their lineup.

Instead, they’ve had as many as five.

Ahead of the Eastern South Dakota Conference gymnastics meet, which opens at noon on Saturday at the Corn Palace, and next week’s Class AA state competition in Mitchell, the Kernels’ balance at the top of the roster is the clearest sign why MHS is the team to beat once again in the postseason.

Between Kyra Gropper, Bentley Bates, Olivia Prunty and Joslin Sommerville and Emily Moody, Mitchell coach Audra Rew said she has five capable No. 1 all-around gymnasts at any time. If they all hit their routines on the same day, the Kernels are going to post scores other teams can’t keep pace with.

Collectively, they account for five of the top-11 all-around scores in Class AA. No other Class AA school has more than two gymnasts with all-around scores that rank that highly. All five are slated to compete in the all-around competition at Saturday’s ESD meet.

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“We really talk about not putting the pressure on yourself. You have the team to back you up. If you struggle, someone else will pick you up and that’s why we have a team,” Rew said. “When you have one kid that knows that they have the pressure on them and they miss, it’s crucial to the team. We don’t have that. Yeah, we have some great kids but our next-best kids, if something happens, they’re only a tenth or two below that and we can pick them up.”

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Mitchell's Olivia Prunty performs her balance beam routine during a gymnastics meet on Dec. 9, 2021 at the MEGA Gymnastics facility in Mitchell.
Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic

Bates, Sommerville, Prunty and Gropper have all had top all-around scores this season of 37.000 or more. Moody’s best score in the all-around is 36.730, but has been in and out of the lineup with general soreness throughout the season and Rew said the team has tried to manage that as best as possible to allow her to compete in the postseason events. Moody and Gropper are both juniors, with Bates and Sommerville each freshmen and Prunty is an eighth-grader.

“There’s just a lot of confidence for us, knowing that we’re all important to the team,” Prunty said. “We know we can all go out and perform and do what we do and not worry about the pressure as much.”

Between injuries, illness and rest, Mitchell has been mixing and matching their lineup all season, meaning there’s a hope that the ESD meet and Class AA state competition will provide the Kernels a chance to perform at full strength.

“It’s really a group that has gained a lot of confidence,” Rew said. “I have five all-arounders who I count on, and that’s a major asset for our team.”

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Mitchell's Kyra Gropper prepares to flip over the bar during a gymnastics meet on Dec. 9, 2021 at the MEGA Gymnastics facility in Mitchell.
Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic

Bates has the team’s leading all-around score for the season — 37.500 — which was set on Jan. 8 at the Brookings Invitational where she took first place in the individual all-around scoring. Bates and Sommerville have averaged better than 37.000 in their all-around scores this season. Bates said much of the team’s collective success can be attributed to having positive attitudes about how they’re going to perform.”

“A lot of preparation goes into each meet and our routines and I think that helps us have confidence that we’re going to do well,” she said.

Rew said even if there is a drive between teammates to top each other’s scores, she doesn’t want to know or think about it. She said it was fitting in the Kernels’ final regular season meet at Brookings on Jan. 20 when Sommerville, Bates and Prunty all finished with scores of 36.950 to tie for the all-around title. Each of them won at least one individual event, with Sommerville winning on floor and vault, Bates winning on bars and Prunty winning the beam title.

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“That’s just something you never see in gymnastics and in the all-around,” Rew said. “That just seems appropriate for how this team is made up this year. … They’re all going to motivate themselves in whatever way they need to perform. But they also know that the team and being a Kernel is the most important thing and they all do a good job of putting that first.”

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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