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Paynesville Press - November 29, 2006

Small squad hits mats for gymnastics

By Michael Jacobson

A small gymnastics squad - six members - will hit the mats this winter for the Paynesville Bulldogs.

Returning to the team are seniors Tanis Beireis, Kacy Nehowig (captain), and Brittney Spanier (captain) and eighth graders Caitlyn Gottwald and Talisha Zimmerman. New this year to the team is seventh grader Kim Uchytil.

With only six gymnasts, the Dogs will be stretched to fill a varsity lineup. Normally in gymnastics, teams have five competitors in each event with the top four scores counting towards the team total. This year, the Dogs will aim to have four scores to count towards their varsity total.

Gottwald, Nehowig, and Spanier are all expected to compete in all four apparatus and the all-around competition. Nehowig and Spanier both did all around last year for the team, while Gottwald competed in all four events on the varsity last year, just not at the same time.

Beireis, who missed last season due to injury, competed on the vault and bars on varsity two years ago. She has added a beam routine this year and will be working on adding a floor routine to compete in the all around by season's end.

Zimmerman could compete on varsity in the floor; otherwise she and Uchytil are expected to gain experience on junior varsity.

Even with a small squad, the team should be able to compete with a number of teams on their schedule, said coach Deb Nehowig, including Morris, Ortonville, and St. James. Their team goal for their first meet is to score 107 points.

But, with such small numbers, the team's margin of error and ability to replace injuries is limited. "We're going to have to bring our A game every meet," said Nehowig.

"Nobody can get hurt," she added. "If one person gets hurt, our team goals go out the window."

Paynesville discussed merging its gymnastics program with New London-Spicer this year, according to Nehowig, but the Wildcats have a chance to go to state this year, which would have meant limited opportunities for the Paynesville gymnasts on a combined team.

With Melrose having only 12 members (four seniors who did not go out), Nehowig says NL-S has a good chance to end the Dutchmen's nine-year run at state trips from Section 6A. Last year, Melrose beat NL-S by three points for the section title. NL-S could also challenge Melrose and Benson for the conference title this year.

Individual goals for the season, according to Nehowig, include: Beireis, becoming varsity all around by the end of the year; Gottwald, topping 30 points in the all around; Spanier, topping 30 points in the all around and earning All Conference or honorable mention honors; and Kacy Nehowig, earning All Conference honors again (for a sixth straight year), earning a return trip to state in the uneven bars (she qualified for state in that event as a sophomore), and trying to break Sara Spanier's school record in the all around (34.15).

Julie Doom returns as the assistant coach for the gymnastics team this winter.

The team, once again, will practice and hold its home meets at the gymnasium at the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds. Their first meet is Friday, Dec. 1, when they host St. James.

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