With four girls with state experience returning, the goal for the Brainerd Warriors is to get the entire team state experience.
The Warriors were one place and 1.1 points away from making that happen last year.
After topping St. Cloud Tech during the regular season and the Central Lakes Conference Championship, the Warriors fell to the Tigers 142.7 to 141.6 in the Section 8-2A Championship.
Freshmen Brenna Deason and Izzy Olson and junior Kenna Smith advanced as individuals, but being that close to making it as a team has created a different atmosphere in the Warrior gymnastics room.
“The Warriors goals this season are to break the beam and floor varsity records, grab a section championship title and break the junior varsity team record,” Warriors head coach Tessa Poorker said. “Our skill is on the right track. We just need to put the puzzle together.”
Deason advanced to state as an all-rounder. She finished second in the section meet with a 36.55. At state, she placed 23rd with 34.825. She earned all-state honorable mention on vault, beam, floor and the all-around. Her 9.625 beam score is the third-highest in program history.
“I think she definitely got a taste of it last year,” Poorker said. “She’s just a very calm competitor. She doesn’t try to let things get to her. With gymnastics being such a mental sport you have to push anything aside and just keep going and knowing your practice has gotten you to that point.
“She did very well with diving this year and track last year as well. She does really well under pressure.”
Olson finished sixth in the all-around in the conference meet. She advanced to state in vault after placing third in the section meet with a 9.35. At state, Olson landed a 9.0 to finish 43rd.
Olson also advanced on floor where she placed 46th with an 8.9875. She was third in the section.
Olson was all-conference on vault, bars, floor and all-around and all-state on vault. She was all-state honorable mention on bars, beam, floor and all-around.
“It’s very important for Izzy to stay healthy this year,” Poorker said. “She is looking really strong. Unfortunately, both Izzy and Brenna missed the first week of practice due to state diving. They are behind a little bit, but you wouldn’t know it. They popped right back in and went from one sport into the next.
“Izzy has been upgrading quite a few of her events so she can hit a lot of home runs this year and we’re excited about that.”
Smith was also 43rd at state on the floor with a 9.1375. She was second behind Deason in the section meet.
Smith was all-conference on beam and floor and was all-state honorable mention on vault, beam and floor.
“We’re playing with a new floor pass for her and that might not be put in until later in the season,” Poorker said. “We don’t want to push too fast. We don’t want to risk injury, but with Kenna she gets the job done. We can rely on her a lot. Her beam is looking great and we hope for a little bit more consistency there. Floor is always a show stopper and we’re looking for her be great on vault, too.”
The fourth girl returning with state experience is senior captain Ellie Selisker, who advanced on vault as a sophomore. Last year in sections, Selisker finished sixth. She was fifth in the conference to earn all-conference honors and also earned all-state honors on vault.
“She is very determined,” Poorker. “She has been such a great leader in the gym and has really taken on our rookies and showing them how things are done. She also puts in her time into her routines. She’s been working on upgrades, too, and we’re trying to get her to feel more confident with those. We’re looking at three solid varsity events for her this year.”
Fellow senior captain Brooklyn Jones was all-conference honorable mention on bars
“Last year she had a few injuries so we tried not to push through too fast,” Poorker said. “We do have a long season, but you can’t push through it too fast. She did a lot of offseason training and got stronger We’re updating her bar routine and she wants to get back on floor and looks really good there, same with beam. She was first up on vault for us pretty much all of last season and we’re looking at that spot for her again.
“It’s hard being a senior and having a spring sport because you don’t want to risk injury for the spring season.”
Junior Maddy Sedlachek and freshmen Josie Harguth, Evi Helsene and Megahn Wirtz will battle to round out the Warriors roster with a host of rookies.
“She’s really committed to gymnastics,” Poorker said. “She’s traveled to St. Cloud to work out there. She is looking very strong on beam this year. We’re working through her bars. She could be somewhat of an all-arounder between JV and varsity.
“Josie was a little bit in our varsity lineup, but then we moved toward Brenna being an all-arounder. Josie will be on bars and beam for us for varsity. She does work all-around as well. She is very balanced across the board so if we need to move her to varsity she’s good with it.
“Evi competed on our section team last year on beam. We had a lot of eighth-graders on our roster last year. She’s looking very strong on beam again, and as I’ve said, beam is just a consistency thing.
“Megan will be a strong competitor on vault and floor with potential all-around between JV and varsity. She was favoring a knee injury last year so she didn’t compete much as a rookie, but she is ready to rock this year.”
With 25 athletes to work with, Poorker and her coaching staff will have good numbers to work with to create the team that will compete for the section title.
“All year last year I kept telling them how amazing they were and that we just needed to start believing that we are that good and that we could beat Tech. We preach that every year, but for some reason last year it started to get more believable. Beating them in a dual in our own gym was icing on the cake. Then we beat them again at the conference meet, but of course, the last hooray is sections. We look at it as, yes, it was a loss, but we gained so much experience from that. They’re back more than ever and are hungry about it. They’re ready.”
Head coach: Tessa Poorker, third season (8-6 career record)
2018-19 record: 4-2 in CLC, 4-3 overall, third in CLC meet, second in Section 8-2A
Returning state participant: Brenna Deason, Izzy Olson, Kenna Smith
Captains: Brooklyn Jones, Smith, Ellie Selisker, Marissa Gower
Assistant coaches: Anna Rogers, Jessica Lofrano-Larson
Seniors: Brooklyn Jones, Ellie Selisker
Juniors: Kenna Smith, Maddy Sedlachek, Olivia Stirewalt, Ella Hannah, Elle Bruggeman, Gabrielle Hannah
Sophomores: Rachel Moore, Kamryn Peterson, Taylor Bordwell
Freshmen: Haley Jones, Megahn Wirtz, Izzy Olson, Brenna Deason, Josie Harguth, Evi Helsene, Kayley Miles, Rose Loschko, Ella Dircks
Eighth-graders: Tia Bruggeman, Sydney Jones, Anaka Schroeder, Tia Schroeder, Christiana Schroeder
Tuesday, Dec. 10: at Bemidji
Dec. 12: hosts Alexandria
Dec. 14: Warrior Invite 11 a.m.
Dec. 20: at Willmar 6 p.m.
Jan. 2: at Sauk Rapids 6 p.m.
Jan. 9: hosts Perham 6 p.m.
Jan. 16: hosts Fergus Falls 6 p.m.
Jan. 18: at Buffalo Invite noon
Jan. 21: at St. Cloud Tech 6 p.m.
Jan. 30: hosts Sartell 6 p.m.
Feb. 8: Central Lakes Conference Championship at Willmar 1 p.m.
Feb. 15: Section 8-2A meet at Sauk Rapids