SHS gymnasts host home meet todayReturning for Superior are seniors Holly Bayless, Jessica Engstrom and Welch; juniors Tay Boykin, Emma Dahl and Brianna MacKenzie; and sophomores Cassandra Strum and Giselle Sziron. Heidi Larsen returns as head coach of the Spartans with Lynda Ritsche as assistant coach.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Depth won’t be a problem for the Superior High School gymnastics team this year.
The Spartans lost only one senior to graduation and return eight gymnasts from last year.
“As of right now, if everyone stays healthy I think we’re at our strongest,” said Carissa Welch, in her fourth year competing for the Spartans. “We have potential. … I think we can really win some meets this year. This team is going to be something they didn’t really expect.”
Returning for Superior are seniors Holly Bayless, Jessica Engstrom and Welch; juniors Tay Boykin, Emma Dahl and Brianna MacKenzie; and sophomores Cassandra Strum and Giselle Sziron. Heidi Larsen returns as head coach of the Spartans with Lynda Ritsche as assistant coach.
Three freshmen, one sophomore, one junior and one senior also join the Spartans this year.
Anna Bronson, Kaitlyn DeJesus and Emily Moder make up the freshman class, and Madeline Peterson joins the sophomores.
Newcomers Emily LeSage, a junior, and Dawn Ferfon, a senior, are new to the high school team but not to gymnastics.
“A lot of the new girls that came in, we’ve been on a team together when we were younger; so it’s kind of fun that we’re all back together competing as a team,” Welch said. “We have that team chemistry.”
Both LeSage and Ferfon were involved in club gymnastics before joining the Spartans this year.
LeSage, in particular, has started the season strong. She claimed the second highest score for Superior on the bars last week at Wisconsin Rapids.
“She has a lot of big skills and she’s really good for our team,” Sziron said. “She’s going to help us out a lot with our all-around score as a team.”
Sziron made history last season by becoming the first freshman from SHS to qualify for state. She advanced with her floor routine, scoring a 8.725 at the sectional meet.
Sziron was unable to compete on the beam for much of last season due to mending back injury, but she has a routine for the apparatus this year.
“I have a routine but I’m not competing as of yet,” Sziron said. “Right now we’re planning on me doing it at sectionals. We’re just being cautious.”
Last year Sziron put together a beam routine just three days before sectionals and scored a 8.400. If she can match that mark this season and average similar scores for the other three events, the sophomore will be a strong contender for an all-around state berth.
Sziron said she still feels “little tweaks” in her back from time to time, but nothing serious.
Engstrom is another leading contender for the Spartans to earn an all-around state berth. If both she and Sziron advanced to state, it will be the first time in school history Superior has sent more than one gymnast to the state competition in the same year.
But Engstrom is not looking ahead to state yet. The senior continues to recover from a season-ending knee injury that took her out of competition early last season.
“Last year I got hurt, and I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to come back, so just coming back has been a huge goal,” Engstrom said. “Mostly I just want to be able to get back to where I was last year before I got hurt.”
Engstrom injured her knee in January on a dismount from the bars. She was slightly off on her landing and said she tore her ACL and “a few other things.”
Returning to gymnastics took months of recuperation, and even now Engstrom said she’s only at 85 percent.
Engstrom also had to work to regain her confidence on the bars. Prior to her injury, it had been Engstrom’s favorite routine, but she was apprehensive when she first returned to the gym.
“Overcoming doing the skill that I got hurt on — that was a big goal,” Engstrom said. “It was such a fluke accident. You could get hurt on anything.
“It’s definitely always in the back of your mind, and it makes you second guess everything, but I know it’s safe to do still.”
The Spartans host their only home meet of the season today at Twin Ports Gymnastics (3000 Hill Ave.). Competition begins at 6 p.m. with Grantsburg and Rice Lake. It will also be senior night for the four seniors on this year’s team.
2012-13 Spartan Gymnastics Team
Holly Bayless Sr.
Tay Boykin Jr.
Anna Bronson Fr.
Emma Dahl Jr.
Kaitlyn DeJesus Fr.
Jessica Engstom Sr.
Dawn Ferfon Sr.
Emily LeSage Jr.
Brianna MacKenzie Jr.
Emily Moder Fr.
Madeline Peterson So.
Cassandra Strum So.
Giselle Sziron So.
Carissa Welch Sr.
Fri., Dec. 7 vs. Grantsburg and Rice Lake, 6 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 8 at Chippewa Falls Invite, 11 a.m.
Sat., Jan. 12 at River Falls Invite, 11 a.m.
Sat., Jan. 19 at Rice Lake Invite, 11 a.m.
Sat., Jan. 26 at Hudson Invite, 10 a.m.
Thurs., Jan. 31 at Rice Lake, 6:30 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 9 at Ashland Invite, 1 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 12 at Grantsburg, 6 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 22 WIAA Sectionals
Mar. 1-2 WIAA State