PREVIEW: Spartan gymnasts open at home tonight
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
When Olympic gymnasts tumble and twirl through a complex sequence of backflips and jumps, their movements seem almost effortless.
Superior High School gymnast Shana Soul, however, can tell you that isn’t the case.
“I remember in the first meet last year I barely made it through my floor routine,” said Soul, a senior captain for the Spartans. “This year it was so much easier.”
The improvement comes from a more strenuous cardio and conditioning workout implemented by Superior’s new coaches this year — Heidi Larsen and Suman Gill.
Larsen helped coach the team last season and agreed to take a larger role this year when the head coaching position became available.
“It’s very, very fun,” Larsen said. “The girls come with great attitudes and they’re ready to learn. It always makes things go a lot smoother when they want to learn.”
Soul and Abbie Bronson, this year’s team captains, said the team is working well with its two new coaches. The increased cardio was challenging at first, but Bronson said the improved scores in Superior’s first meet last week made it worthwhile.
The extra conditioning may also have helped the Spartan girls stay healthy during their first few weeks of practice. Compared to previous years, the team is in good shape, with just a few turned ankles and one broken finger.
“I’ve got no injuries,” Soul said. “That’s a first for me.”
Superior’s gymnast with a broken finger, freshman Emma Dahl, couldn’t be kept away from practice this week. She turned one-handed cartwheels on the practice mats, her right hand still in a bright orange cast.
“I love our team. It’s always fun in here,” Dahl said. “Everybody is so dedicated and determined to get what they want.”
Dahl said she hopes to have her cast off after winter break, at which point she plans to be right back on the mats.
“We’ve got a lot of young talent on the team this year,” Bronson said. “I think the returning gymnasts are really helping the newcomers get into the swing of things.”
“It’s been pretty easy so far,” Soul said. “I think everyone’s getting along well.”
Only four of the 13 gymnasts on the roster competed for the Spartans last season. Soul and Bronson are the most experienced of those four, with sophomores Jessica Engstrom and Carissa Welch also returning after strong freshman seasons.
Both Engstrom and Welch started gymnastics when they were about four years old, and with one year of varsity experience behind them, they’re looking to improve upon their marks from last year.
“We have a lot of girls this year with experience, so it’s easier to focus on individual (improvement),” Welch said.
Engstrom, who was Superior’s top gymnast last season said she was often nervous last season as a freshman. This year she will be looked to as a leader.
Most of the girls new to the team have previous gymnastics experience. The majority of freshmen and sophomores — who make up about 70 percent of the team — came up through the club program at Twin Ports Gymnastics and have developed many of the skills needed at the varsity or junior varsity level.
“We’ve all kind of grown up in the gym together. Even me,” Larsen said. “I did gymnastics with some of the girls out there, and a couple of the girls, I coached them when they were really little.”
Monika Sziron, the only senior on the team besides Soul, returned to gymnastics after taking a year off to dance.
“It’s really good to see her returning with the same skills she had before,” Bronson said. “I think she’s really enjoying the team.”
“It’s like she was never gone,” Soul said.
Superior’s other upperclassman, junior Laura Wuttke, is a foreign exchange student visiting from Germany.
The SHS gymnastics team hosts its first home meet of the year at 6 p.m. today at the Twin Ports Gymnastics Center, 3000 Hill Ave. Competing against the Spartans will be Grantsburg and Rice Lake.
Larsen said Superior is strongest in its beam and floor routines at this point in the season. Some of the girls are still a bit fearful on the vault, she said, and as a whole the team is still working to improve its upper body strength on the bars.
She said the goal for the season it to get every gymnast to compete in each event at least once.
“This year I told them they don’t have to do all-around, but they are going to go to each event and at least try it, ” Larsen said.
SHS gymnastics roster
Abby Berg So.
Abbie Bronson Jr.
Emma Dahl Fr.
Jessica Engstrom So.
Karrigan Grimstad Fr.
Alyssa Jackman Fr.
Brianna MacKenzie Fr.
Shana Soul Sr.
Monika Sziron Sr.
Michelle Tesarek Fr.
Carissa Welch So.
Becca Williams Fr.
Laura Wuttke Jr.
SHS gymnastics schedule
Friday, Dec. 10 vs. Grantsburg/Rice Lake, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 11 at Chippewa Falls Invite, 11 a.m.
Friday, Jan. 7 vs. St. Croix Falls, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 15 at River Falls Invite, 11 a.m.
Thursday, Jan. 20 at Ashland, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 22 at Rice Lake Invite, 11 a.m.
Saturday, Jan. 29 at Hudson Invite, 10 a.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 1 at Rice Lake, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 12 at Ashland Invite, 1 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 18 vs. Ashland, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 26 WIAA Sectionals at Chippewa Falls
Friday, March 4-5 WIAA State at Wisconsin Rapids