Gymnasts get back to business

Trojan junior Marissa Ekness competed on the balance beam during the Trojans' win over Waconia Tuesday, Dec. 18. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

The theme the New Prague gymnastics team chose before the season began was “Unfinished Business.” IT referred to the team’s second place finish at last year’s state Class A gymnastics meet and a goal of topping that this season.

The Trojans were off to a great start, scoring more than 143 points in their first two meets, before head coach Matt Shetka died of a heart attack on December 9. After a difficult and emotional week of mourning the team got back to business last week, defeating Waconia and Red Wing in a pair of dual meets.

The squad will work at refining their routines during the holiday break and resume competition Friday, Jan. 4, with their biggest meet of the season to date, against Northfield. The Raiders and Trojans are the top teams in the Missota Conference and two of the top teams in the state (The Raiders placed second at last year’s State Class AA meet). The Trojans host their home invitational meet on Saturday, Jan 5.

Trojans 142.075, Wildcats 132.075 New Prague competed without their top allarounder, Jess Niedermeyer, who hurt her ankle in practice. But the team’s depth gave them a boost as they defeated Waconia by 10 points, 142.075-132.07 5.

New Prague had the top finisher in each event and swept the top four spots in two events, the balance beam and floor exercise.

Jaimie Niedermeyer placed first in the all-around, scoring in the top four in each event. She was first on the uneven bars (9.025), second on the vault (9.15) and floor (9.25) and fourth on the bars (8.8). She had a score of 36.225 to place first on the all-around. Brianna Ellanson was second on the bars (8.6) and third on the beam (9.025) and floor (8.8).

Bridget Ellanson had a tough go of it on two of her first three events, but recovered nicely with an impressive 9.475 to take first on the floor exercise. Sarah Hoffman was first on the vault (9.25) and beam (9.45), Marissa Ekness was second on beam (9.2), and Ashley Nerud was third on bars (8.325).

Coach Doug Amundson, who is interim coach for the remainder of the season, said he was worried about the girls’ focus after such an emotional week, and while there were some shaky routines, overall the team did well.

“We had 27 personal best scores between the varsity and JV,” he said.

Top JV scores for the Trojans were Kayla Leahy on vault (8.4), Syd Samson on bars (8.4) and floor (8.6), and Ashley Nerud on beam (8.6).

Trojans 139.95, Wingers 119.275 The Trojans failed to top 140 for the first time this season, due to an administrative error: The wrong order was turned into judges for one of the events, resulting in a onepoint deduction.

Amundson said the team struggled on some events.

“We seem to struggle every year when we go to Red Wing. I’m not sure if it is the bus ride, the gym or thoughts of sugarplums dancing in our heads,” he said.

The team started out strong, hitting on all five of its vaults.

“The scores seemed conservative, but that seems to be consistent with that judging association,” he said. “After vault, things just seemed to keep getting worse.”

The team hit on 12 of 20 routines.

The high point was Hoffman’s beam routine, which scored a 9.5.

New Prague had the top four finishes in all four events. Placing first were Jaimie Niedermayer on vault and bars and Hoffman on beam and floor. Second place finishers were Hoffman and Samson on vault, Jess Niedermayer on bars, Brianna Ellanson on beam and Bridget Ellanson on floor; third place finishers were Brianna Ellanson on bars and floor and Ekness on beam, and placing fourth were Bridget Ellanson on vault, Christine Simon on bars, and Jaimie Niedermayer on beam and floor.

Jaimie Niedermayer won the all-around with 34.875, while Bridget Ellanson was second at 33.9.

Top JV performers were Hannah Piehl on three events, (bars, beam and floor) and MacKenzie Deutsch on vault.