The Melrose gymnastics team will enter Friday’s state gymnastics meet as the top-ranked team in Class A for the second season in a row.
What’s different this year as the Dutchmen go for their second straight state title is their frame of mind.
“Last year we knew we were the top dog and we were expected to win,” Melrose coach Katie Masog said. “I think the girls are going to go (to state) not even focused on being No. 1.
“This year, the girls are just like, ‘We’re going to go out and do our best each day and whatever happens, happens.’ No one stresses over it.”
The Class A team meet starts at 11 a.m. and the Class 2A teams compete at 6 p.m. Friday at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion in Minnesota.
The Class A and Class 2A individual meets start at the same times Saturday.
Melrose lost its top performer from last season’s championship team, Hailey Brinkman, to graduation. Brinkman won three events – uneven bars, floor exercise and balance beam – to claim the Class A all-around championship.
“Hailey was totally the leader and she held the team together,” Masog said.
Added Masog: “If Hailey was off, the team was off. This year, everybody knew that they had to step it up and everybody got better, individually.
With Brinkman gone, the Dutchmen entered the season ranked second in Class A behind New Prague, but jumped up to No. 1 when the Jan. 21 rankings came out.
Melrose edged New Prague by 1.025 points in the 2012 Class A Meet.
The Dutchmen return several key pieces from last season’s lineup, like Brinkman’s younger sisters, junior Jailyn and eighth-grader Mady.
Sophomore Lydia Butkowski was Melrose’s top performer on the vault last year in the individual meet, Jailyn Brinkman and Butkowski finished in the top 10 on the bars and eighth-grader Abby Hinnenkamp took sixth on the beam.
Hinnenkamp fractured a bone in her left foot earlier in the season. Four days after she dropped the crutches, Hinnenkamp competed in the Section 6A Meet, pulling off a personal best on the bars.
“Abby got the doctor’s OK last Tuesday, basically started walking on her foot on Friday and was swinging bars for us on Saturday,” Masog said.
The Dutchmen have made nine state appearances in the past 10 seasons with two third-place finishes in addition to the championship.
St. Cloud Tech has enjoyed a lot of success, as well, in Class 2A. The Tigers started their string of seven straight state appearances with four runners-up finishes in a row.
“I think that has a lot to do with the consistency of coaching,” said Joel Stark-Haws, Tech’s coach since the 2009-10 season. “Dave Hoeller had been coaching for more than 30 years and put a lot of traditions in place and made the program what it is.
“I’m proud to continue those traditions.”
The Tigers are coming off a third-place finish in last year’s Class 2A meet behind Roseville and Northfield, who are currently ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.
Mariah Miller goes into her final state meet, taking seventh in the all-around and sixth on the vault last season as a junior. Senior Taylor Pick took ninth on the vault last year and junior Paige Beuning placed third on the beam.
“Our three seniors (Miller, Pick and Katlyn Mohs) are going to be motivated to do well with this being their last year,” Stark-Haws said. “Experience plays a tremendous role in how you perform at state.
“When you have kids that are familiar with environment of the Sports Pavilion, it makes a big difference.”