An explosion of talented freshman and a senior stalwart could lead the Manitowoc Lincoln gymnastic team back to Wisconsin Rapids this season.
With returning state qualifier Alyssa DeZeeuw anchoring the youthful squad, head coach Jacque Bartow has high hopes for her squad entering the 2015-16 season.
“We set that as one of our top goals, to make it to state as a team,” said Bartow, who led Lincoln to state appearances in 2004 and 2006. “As long as we stay healthy, I think that’s very doable.”
For the Ships, it starts with DeZeeuw, who posted top 10 finishes at state on the floor and uneven bars and finished 14th in the all-around competition.
Bartow said DeZeeuw, one of two seniors on the Ships’ roster, is stronger than she was last year.
“She’s very determined to throw a higher level vault so she is looking at going back to the actual vault she broke her ankle on (as a sophomore),” Bartow said. “Everything else is just maintaining what she already has.”
Senior Sam Hacker and sophomore Jordyn Schmidt were both regulars in the varsity lineup but will face plenty of competition for the spots in the Ships’ lineup.
Leading list of newcomers for Lincoln is Brynn Tackett, Breanna Reinhart, Elena Behnke and Meghan Borchardt. All four should figure in the varsity lineup and are capable of competing in all four events.
“It’s a talented group of freshmen,” Bartow said. “Brynn will give Alyssa a run for her money, Breanna lettered in cross country and will definitely be in the top five and Meghan is a very strong gymnast.”
With the limited amount of varsity spots, finding a way to field the best lineup is going to be the challenge for Bartow.
Although the freshmen have backgrounds in the YMCA program, there is an adjustment to the high school level that has to be made, and Bartow doesn’t want her young squad to feel overwhelmed. But she also doesn’t want to hold anything back either.
“I’ve told them I want to come out swinging and showing our best stuff,” Bartow said. “Even though they are talented, they are inexperienced when it comes to high school, and it’s a whole different ball game competing against all different levels. I just want them to be mentally prepared as well as the physical aspect.”
The co-op program graduated a pair of seniors, including state-qualifier Hailey Szalewski, whose trip to Wisconsin Rapids last season definitely made an impact on the crew coach Stefanie Kaderabek will bring to the gym this season.
“I think it just sets the tone of what they want to achieve and makes them work harder,” Kaderabek said. “They definitely have been working hard this year.”
Leading the way for Valders/Roncalli will be junior Kelly Jacoby, who comes off a strong season last year and is expected to be even better this season.
“Kelly is definitely the team leader,” Kaderabek said. “I think Kelly has her sights set on state and she should be there at the end of the year, no question. She worked very hard in the offseason, and it shows.”
Sophomores Gena Pekarske, who is currently battling an injury, and Lauren Erdmann were varsity regulars and will likely hold down all-around spots in the lineup.
Kaderabek also expects freshmen Whitney Andrastek and McKenna Walsh to be key contributors to the squad this season and help roundup the varsity lineup.
“Those two freshmen will be on varsity for one, if not two events,” Kaderabek said. “I think we’ll be pretty strong on floor and then beam will be our other event that we should be good on. We have the skills, it’s just a matter of staying on.”