Jan. 24—BEMIDJI — Last season, the Bemidji High School gymnastics team had a ready-made quintet of experienced gymnasts capable of vying for all-around titles.
This year's team is younger and greener, with every meet an opportunity to learn and grow. That's just what first-year head coach Ericka Pickett hopes to see from her squad every time out, and she liked what she saw on Tuesday at the Gym Bin. The Lumberjacks topped Park Rapids 135.425-126.525 in a home dual meet, but more importantly, they continued to display the improvement Pickett has sought all season long.
"The confidence on each event, they don't have that experience yet," Pickett said. "That's what we're growing towards. The nerves get in there. And that's what a young team has trouble with compared to (an older) team. So our scores are still a little bit behind (last year's team). Our group that we had last year was phenomenal. There were five girls that were all-around, and I have three girls right now that are solid all-arounds. So that is a big difference too."
It had to be encouraging for Pickett, then, that Bemidji's Addison Hill topped the all-around competition on Tuesday with a score of 34.575. Among her teammates, Kennedy Olson finished third with her 33.375, and Aubrey DeWitt took fourth place at 33.3.
"We need consistency," Pickett said. "We need to hit sticks. And I think there's just a lot to do with understanding how to handle their emotions, and that they're new to that. ... I'm happy with our points. Every girl has shown an improvement with skills on every event so far (from when) we started until right now. I'm really happy with that."
BHS won the bulk of the individual events as well. Chloe Workman topped the floor exercise with a score of 9.4, the highest total for any competitor in any event. Hill led the beam with her 8.975, and DeWitt paced the bars field at 8.4.
Hill also placed second on bars with an 8.3, as did Aurora Frank on vault (8.8). DeWitt (9.0, floor); Olson (8.75, vault) and Workman (8.75, vault) all placed third in their respective events, and Olson additionally took third on beam (8.275) and bars (8.1).
Hill (8.85, fourth) and Frank (8.65, fifth) recorded top-five finishes on floor, as did Taylor Hanks (7.85, fifth) on beam. Bella Reierson (7.725, beam) and Stella Schoonover (7.15, bars) claimed sixth for the Jacks.
As Pickett's familiarity with the team has grown, so has the quality of its performances. She's enjoyed having the opportunity to build bonds with her pupils and get in on the ground floor of a group with plentiful potential and much left to learn.
"This is a really good spot to enter in, when the team is young, because then they don't have previous expectations and some coaching things that they're so used to," Pickett said. "They can develop into me, and I think we can bond faster and grow faster that way. And I do want to stay around for a few years — that would be nice — and see these girls finish out (their careers), for sure.
"The other group, that's what they did. They were together for a long time, (and they accomplished a lot). So hopefully we can get these girls to do the same thing."
Bemidji returns to competition for a dual meet against Detroit Lakes at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, in DL.