Trojan gymnasts resolve to carry on

Jess Niedermayer took first place on the floor exercise Thursday, Dec. 6, as the Trojans defeated Breck. To see more photos click on the blue button to the right. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

The New Prague High School gymnastics team will face the toughest challenge of the season this weekend, when they say goodbye to their coach and friend, Matt Shetka.

Shetka died Sunday, Dec. 9, suffering an apparent heart attack while shoveling snow (See story, Page 1). The wake is scheduled for Friday and the funeral for Saturday.

No opponent, no meet, will be as difficult for the team as the challenge facing them this weekend.

The team held a meeting and a light workout Monday afternoon. The gym, usually a flurry of activity and chatter at the beginning of practice, was uncharacteristically quiet. As assistant coach Doug Amundsen unlocked the gym doors, team members filed into the gym and sat on a mat, talking quietly to each other.

“This is a close group,” said Amundsen, who will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. “Matt was very important to all of them, they’re like a family. As a coach, I see this bringing them even closer together. Matt worked with a lot of girls in his 33 years as coach, and this group alone will have to carry on that legacy and complete the season.” Amundsen affirmed that the team’s goal since the beginning of practice has been a state championship. He said the girls have resolved to do what it takes to achieve that goal.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “It’s going to require these girls to work hard every day... no taking days off.” The Trojans were scheduled to compete at their biggest rival, Northfield, Friday evening. New Prague finished second in Class A last season, while the Raiders were second in Class AA. That meet has been postponed until January 22. The girls will be attending Shetka’s wake and funeral this weekend, then get back to business.

New Prague will host Waconia at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18. The meet will serve as a tribute to Shetka’s legacy, and all alumni gymnasts from Shetka’s career are welcome to attend.

New Prague began its season last week by winning two meets - the last two of Shetka’s career. They defeated Lakeville North and Breck.

Trojans 143.675, Panthers 133.95

New Prague started the season in a positive way Tuesday, Dec. 4, scoring 143.675 points to defeat Lakeville North by nearly 10 points.

“It’s possibly the highest score to start a season that we have ever had,” Shetka said after the match. “It was especially gratifying knowing how hard the girls have worked during the off-season, and dealing with a number of minor injuries and other problems in practice leading up to the meet.

“I’m amazed at the start, I knew we were capable, but things have been so hectic I never would have expected that score,” he said.

New Prague had all five competitors hit on the vault, with Sarah Hoffman leading the way with a 9.375 and Bridget Ellanson and Jaimie Niedermayer tieing for third at 9.225.

New Prague took the top four places on the uneven bars, with Jess Niedermayer leading the way with a 9.025, followed by Jaimie Niedermayer at 8.75, Brianna Ellanson with 8.625 and Ashley Nerud at 8.575.

On the balance beam, Jess Niedermayer was first at 9.55, Sarah Hoffman second at 9.125 and Brianna Ellanson fourth at 8.5.

On floor, Jaimie Niedermayer was second at 9.375 and Jess Niedermayer was third at 9.125.

Jess Niedermayer won the all-around with a 36.875, while Jaimie Niedermayer was third at 35.425.

Trojans 143.175, Mustangs 104.375

New Prague again topped 143 points in a convincing win over Breck Thursday, Dec. 6, in what would be Shetka’s final meet.

Shetka said his team showed improvement over their opening meet, hitting more routines and looking stronger, but he was disappointed in the judges’ scores, which he thought were low.

The Trojans did well in all events, but they really shined on the floor, with all five competitors scoring 9.0 or better.

Jess Niedermayer won two events, the bars (8.975) and floor (9.45) and was third on the vault (9.15) and fourth on the beam (8.625). Jaimie Niedermayer was first on vault (9.275), second on bars (8.55) and fourth on the floor (9.1), Marissa Ekness won the beam (9.0), Hoffman was second on the vault (9.25) and beam (8.725) and third on the floor (9.275), Bridget Ellanson was second on the floor (9.35), and fourth on the vault (8.95) and bars (8.325). Brianna Ellanson was third on beam (8.65) and Nerud was third on the bars (8.525).

Jess Niedermayer won the all-around with a score of 36.2. Her twin sister Jamie was second at 35.375.