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Paynesville Press - November 30, 2005

Gymnasts preparing again for winter slate

By Michael Jacobson

In addition to losses to graduation, injuries have further depleted the Bulldogs gymnastics squad this winter. Last year, the Dogs reached their team goal of scoring 120 points in a win against Ortonville, but the team will be working on improving individual skills and filling a full varsity lineup this year.

Aside from losing four seniors, junior Kacy Nehowig, who qualified for state last year in the uneven bars, is out until at least January with a stress fracture in her hip. Junior Tanis Beireis is also out with an injured knee.

The gymnastics team, which began practice on Monday, Nov. 14, has ten members. Seven returning members are: senior Kayla Nelson (balance beam and floor exercise); junior Celia Frieler (bars, beam, and floor); Nehowig (usually all around but probably only bars this year); junior Brittany Spanier (all around); sophomore Cassey Lund (all around); sophomore Christine Spanier (all around); and ninth grader Anna Kotten (all around).

Newcomers to the team this year are seventh graders Caitlyn Gottwald (all around), Megan Wuertz (all around), and Talisha Zimmerman (floor).

Injuries bit the Dogs' seniors last year, too, meaning the Dogs lost only one event to graduation from their section team. But the loss of Nehowig (four events) and Beireis (two events) means the Dogs have seven "holes" to fill in the varsity lineup. With five varsity competitors on all four events, there are 20 spots in a varsity gymnastics lineup.

Kotten, who has finished as honorable mention in the conference the past two years, will again be counted on in the all around for the Dogs. Frieler (bars, beam, and floor), Lund (beam, floor, and vault), Nelson (beam and floor), Brittany Spanier (bars and vault), Christine Spanier (beam and floor) also have varsity experience.

Kotten, said coach Deb Nehowig, should actually have her chances of earning All Conference honors improve by Kacy Nehowig's injury. Points for All Conference are based on placings in conference dual meets and at the conference meet (where points count double). With Nehowig out and not likely to compete in the all around when she returns - instead focusing on a return trip to state on the bars - Kotten should place higher at every meet this year, which will help her accumulate more points.

Last year in February, Kotten set a career high by breaking 32 points in the all around.

With only 10 gymnasts, the lowest ever, said Deb Nehowig, the Dogs will not be able to fill a junior varsity lineup. The priority will be to fill the varsity lineup first.

Gottwald and Wuertz, who have been active in gymnastics through Community Education for years, could see action on the varsity right away, said Nehowig. They already are going over the vault without a spotter, she noted.

All the girls, said Nehowig, are working on individual improvement. "They all have skills that they have in mind and they want to add to their routines," said Nehowig, who will be assisted this winter by 2003 PAHS grad Tessa Miller. The changes to the West Central Conference do not affect gymnastics because none of the three new schools offer the sport. Melrose and Benson once again are conference and section favorites.

The Dogs will again practice and hold their meets at the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds.

Their first meet is at home against Sauk Centre/Long Prairie-Grey Eagle on Tuesday, Dec. 6. Most meets start at 6 p.m., and with the limited junior varsity this year the varsity could start by 6:45 p.m.

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