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Class AA gymnastics preview: S.F. schools looking up to R.C. Central

Knights aim to improve on third-place finish

12:00 AM, Nov. 29, 2012 EST

Senior Lynne Hanten of Watertown finished third in the all-around last season. / Elisha Page / Argus Leader

Last season, Rapid City Central put a stop to an 11-year state gymnastics championship drought behind the sister act of Colette and Chelsey Christensen, who finished first and second, respectively, in the all-around.

In fact, the Cobblers placed five in the top 10 in the all-around and will return four of those gymnasts this year once the Christensens rejoin the team following the club season, making the defending Class AA champions the team everyone will be chasing come state meet time.

Colette, a junior, is the defending vault and beam champion while Chelsey, an eighth-grader, is the defending bars and floor champion. The two finished less than three-tenths apart in all-around points while Brandee Roach (eighth all-around) and McKinsey Kost (ninth all-around) return for their senior season.

Watertown, which has four titles and three runner-up finishes over the last seven years, won't be far behind with the return of senior Lynne Hanten and sophomore Lexy Morris. Hanten finished third all-around with runner-up performances on the beam and bars while Morris, who finished runner-up on vault, was fifth all-around.

"I think they're going to be right up there again with Rapid City," said Melissa Van Gilder, who guided the Arrows to state titles from 2009-11 and is filling in while coach Vicky Fisher is on maternity leave.

Meanwhile O'Gorman, which finished third last season, could be poised for another solid season while Mitchell and Brookings could repeat top-5 state finishes.

Here's a closer look at the Sioux Falls schools:


Coming off a third-place finish a season ago, the Knights return a small, but confident group.

Junior Abby Thuringer finished seventh all-around while placing 10th or better on vault, bean and bars, while junior Taylor Kelsey tied for ninth on beam and freshman Jamie Benedict finished ninth on floor.

O'Gorman also brings back sophomores Emily Groth, Courtney Miller and Sadie Facile as well as freshman Jenae Porter, as the Knights look to fill the void left by the graduation of Josie Heisel, who placed fourth all-around last season.

"We are a small team this year but are made of very hard workers who do a great job of motivating each other to keep improving," said coach Emmy Cotten. "However, being small does not bother us since we know dynamite comes in small packages."


Senior Sydney Torgrude enters the season at less than 100 percent, but should continue toward full strength as the season progresses. Torgrude tied for 10th on bars last season, but is looking to make a strong run on floor and bar as well.

The Patriots, who finished 10th, return multiple letterwinners in junior Alayna Dutcher, freshman Julie Teslow, sophomore Peyton Kliewer and eighth-grader Logan Kliewer, while junior Ember Newman is also back after taking last year off.

"Lincoln will be good on beam and floor," said coach Les Frederick. "We will be all right on vault, but will struggle on bars."


The Rough Riders will be looking to improve on last season's eighth-place finish after losing four gymnasts to graduation, including Emily Pepper and Macy Petersen, the team's top two gymnasts a year ago.

The Riders return senior Devann Ellis, who finished 18th on beam, as well as senior Lizz Kolda, junior Lejla Smajlovic, sophomore Siana Swedlund and freshman Madisyn Waltjer.

"Our goal is to strive to make ourselves better every day through hard work while gaining friendships and learning other lessons for life outside the gym," said coach Lori Warne.


Admittedly, the Warriors are in a rebuilding period. However, the program's numbers are up from last season, lending a fair amount of optimism moving forward.

Freshman Baylee Tordsen joins Washington after competing at the club level and is expected to be the group's top gymnast this season.

The Warriors also return seniors Rachel Semmler and Lauren Kayl with freshmen Jamie Kayl, Codi Cook and Phoebe Livesay and eighth-grader Alieanna Casey-Anderson rounding out the top seven.

"I am very enthusiastic about our growth from last season to the start of this season," said coach Ellen Steever. " Our numbers have tripled and we have excellent prospects on our team."



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