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Paynesville Press - December 1, 2004

Gymnasts prepare for winter schedule

By Michael Jacobson

A small, but veteran, gymnastics squad for the Bulldogs hopes to show greater consistency and improvement in 2004-05.

Last year, the Dogs topped 115 points three times and averaged around 112 points per meet. This year, the team hopes to average 115 points, thru greater consistency, and hopes to score 120 by the end of the season.

The Bulldogs have 13 gymnasts on the team this year, including five seniors - Ashley Karger, Abby Lindeman, Caitlyn Mandigo, Katie Nelson, and Ashley Spanier. The team has one junior (Kayla Nelson) four sophomores (Tanis Beireis, Celia Frieler, Kacy Nehowig, and Brittney Spanier), two ninth graders (Cassey Lund and Christine Spanier), and one eighth grader (Anna Kotten). All are returning members to the squad, though Beireis and Karger did not compete last year.

Nehowig earned All Conference honors last year and returns as an all-around performer, along with Kotten, who earned honorable mention honors in the West Central Conference North last year.

The Dogs have good depth, said coach Deb Nehowig, with nearly all the girls vying for a varsity spot on one apparatus or another. Nehowig believes the Dogs should be strong on the floor exercise and vault, but still need to improve on the balance beam and the uneven bars.

On the beam, the team needs to perform at meets like it does in practice, said Nehowig. "In practice, we do no-fall routines. Then in meetsÉ," said Nehowig, trailing off. "You have to be aggressive. It's all in the head."

While the Dogs just need to be more consistent on the beam, they need to add some degree of difficulty on the bars. More girls need to be able to do kips, said Nehowig, to improve the difficulty (and maximum score) for their bar routines. Karger's return should help on the bars.

On the floor, as many as seven gymnasts could vie for a varsity spot, according to Nehowig, and this and the vault should be the team's strength.

The vault is new this year. Not the event, but the actual apparatus. A vaulting table, or tongue-shaped vault, replaces the old vault. This vaulting table is used in the Olympics, said Nehowig, and the switch was mandatory this year.

Nehowig said the new vault appears intimidating, as the gymnasts now have to clear it lengthwise, but it actually provides greater propulsion and flight. Already half the team is doing their vaults without spotters. "They like it," said Nehowig of the new vault. "I thought it would freak them out because it's so much longer."

The new vaulting table, according to Ashley Spanier, a varsity vaulter, is easier because there is more room for your hands.

The team started practicing on Monday, Nov. 15, and will again hold their practices and home meets at the gymnasium at the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds. Nehowig is pleased that the team members have retained their skills over the offseason, but there is still a rush to polish these skills and put routines together for the first meet.

This week, the varsity will have its first meet at a quadrangular at Morris on Saturday afternoon. The junior varsity members have another week to perfect their routines before their first meet.

Last year, the Dogs finished with a record of 7-16, but this year they expect to be able to compete with Long Prairie/Sauk Centre and New London-Spicer, which both lost seniors, while the Dogs return intact. Melrose and Benson return as both the conference and section favorites.

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