MINNEAPOLIS – The St. Cloud Tech/Cathedral gymnastics team is headed to the Class 2A state meet for a 10th straight time this week.
The Tigers will take part in the team competition Friday night at the University of Minnesota’s Sports Pavilion and then the individual competition Saturday night. The competition begins at 6 p.m. each day.
Tech/Cathedral head coach Joel Stark-Haws thinks the Tigers have a shot at competing for a state title, but it won’t be easy against heavyweights like Roseville, Rosemount and East Ridge.
Tech/Cathedral was ranked fourth in the latest state coaches poll. The Tigers had a season-high in points (147.4) after winning the Section 8-2A meet last Saturday.
“We’re going into state feeling very positive,” Stark-Haws said. “We’re ready to take advantage of this opportunity as a team. It’s going to be a close race for the team title. We’ve all been close with each other all season.”
Going to state so often has never gotten old for Stark-Haws and the Tigers.
“It’s quite rewarding to go every year,” he said. “It shows the type of commitment and program we have at Tech. Our athletes put in a lot of hard work. It’s just icing on the cake to get to state as a team. That’s our goal every year. We’re not going to lay down for anybody.
“I think this is going to be a special year for us. We’re an outstate team that can really compete with the teams from the Twin Cities.”
The Tigers are led by sophomore Lara Aycock and senior Margaux Schmid. Aycock won the section meet with 36.3 points, and Schmid was second with 36.05 points. Both will take part in the all-around in the individual portion of state Saturday.
St. Cloud Apollo’s Sarah Voigt also qualified for state in the all-around after finishing with 35.9 points at the section meet.
Tech/Cathedral has seven other gymnasts participating in individual events. They include Allison Seehusen (vault, bars, floor), Sarah Lommel (bars, beam), Torrie Aycock (floor), Emily Dorn (beam, vault), Tess Scholtes (beam), Jodi Lipp (vault, bars floor) and Taylor Terfehr (floor).
Apollo’s Betty Grell advanced to state on the beam after winning the section meet with a score of 9.2.
Stark-Haws and his wife, assistant coach Colleen Stark-Haws, will be inducted in the State Gymnastics Coaches Hall of Fame at the state banquet Thursday night at the Minneapolis Marriott Hotel City Center.
The two found out they were being inducted in late January. The two have been coaching Tech since the 1997-98 season. They’ve been married 21 years and coaching together for 25.
The couple coached at Sartell and Sauk Rapids before going to Tech.
“It’s very special for us,” Joel said. “We’ve been coaching together as long as we’ve been married. This is a big passion of ours. We help each other get better at it. We continue to enjoy it. It’s just an honor to go into the Hall of Fame with so many great coaches and athletes from around the state.”
Melrose is looking to defend its Class A state title, but it won’t be easy for the Dutchmen going up against No. 1-ranked Detroit Lakes.
Melrose, ranked No. 2 in Class A, and Becker are the St. Cloud-area squads competing in the Class A state team meet, which starts at 11 a.m. Friday in Minneapolis. The individual competition starts at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“We’re trying to clean some things up this week at practice and give it our best shot at state,” Melrose head coach Katie Masog said. “We’ve been waiting for this all year. We want to have a big score and go after Detroit Lakes with everything we have.”
Detroit Lakes won the Class A state true team meet in Melrose on Jan. 24 with 184 points to Melrose’s 180.8. Masog feels the Dutchmen have what it takes to hang in there with the Lakers. Melrose won Section 6A last Saturday in New London with 146.850 points.
“We’ve been right there with them all season. They have very big skills and great gymnasts up there. We have some talented girls, too. If we both hit our routines, it’s going to be very close. We have some veterans and they know what it’s like. That will definitely play a role.
“I think Detroit Lakes has more pressure on them because everyone is gunning for the top-ranked team.”
Melrose’s Lydia Butkowski and Mady Brinkman will both take part in the all-around competition, Kayla Austing will compete on the beam and Camryn Brinkman will compete on the vault.
Butkowski and Brinkman both have a shot at winning a state all-around title. Butkowski injured an arm last week at the section meet, but should be ready to go Friday.
“She’s going to fight through that injury no matter what. She’ll be OK,” Masog said.
Becker won Section 7A last Saturday with 142.825 team points.
“It meant a lot for us to win the section,” Becker head coach Jennifer Harmoning said. “We hadn’t qualified in three years. It was a major goal for us to be able to get back.”
Sartell had three qualifiers make it to state. Madison Flaherty and Anna Neeser both qualified in the all-around for Sartell and Shelby Hall qualified on the uneven bars.
Becker had four individuals qualify for Saturday’s competition. The Bulldogs advancing included Miranda O’Brien (vault), Lindsay Olsen (beam, floor), Megan Murphy (beam) and Haley Olsen (bars).
“We have a huge amount of depth this year,” Harmoning said. “It was exciting for us to overcome some adversity with injuries and illnesses to get this far. We’ve been very strong here toward the end of the season.
“We don’t have a superstar, but our whole lineup is sound.”
Harmoning knows that Melrose and Detroit Lakes will be favored to win the team competition. Becker finished the season ranked 10th in the final coaches poll.
“We believe we’re capable of being a top-five team in the state. We finished fifth at true team and beat several teams ranked ahead of us. We know what we have in us,” Harmoning said.
Follow Andy Rennecke on Twitter @AndyRennecke. Contact him at 255-8735.