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Gymnasts host invitational

The Morris Area gymnastics team hosted its annual varsity invitational on Saturday, Dec. 13. Being only the second meet of the season for the Tigers, there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the air. Earlier in the week, the Tigers opened their season with a team score of 108.55 and were eager to top that at the invite.

This was a Varsity only competition and included teams from Benson, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, New London-Spicer, Ortonville, and Paynesville/Eden Valley-Watkins.

In a varsity meet, a team is allowed only five gymnasts to compete on each event and one of these individuals must be an All-Around competitor (gymnast that compete on all four events). With the ability to utilize any gymnast grades seven through twelve, the Morris Area Tigers had 11 gymnasts competing that day.

The Tigers attained a score of 110 points, finishing in fifth place overall.

"This was a significant accomplishment as the roster was different than earlier in the week," said coach Trent Oberg. "Senior co-captain Michelle Jipson was unable to compete that day due to another commitment. The team has a lot of depth and it is very exciting to see.

"There continues to be that inner-squad push and everyone is improving," said Oberg. "This allows the coaches to 'play' with the rotation a little and try to figure out what groove will work down the road."

Eighth grader Hailey Kotts and seventh grader Paige Schieler had their debut in varsity competition.

"This was also Schieler's' first time in competition period," added Oberg. "I was asking a lot of her to jump into the role of a varsity athlete for her very first meet. Paige was extremely confident and performed very well. I am proud of her for what she did for the team and herself. I think that I was more nervous for her than she was."

Schieler competed on the uneven bars receiving a 5.35 and the balance beam receiving an amazing 6.95. Schieler said of her beam routine that she "felt pretty confident about her routine and was very excited that she stuck her back walkovers."

Kotts competed on the floor exercise for the Tigers and received a personal-best score of 5.9 for her efforts. Kotts said she "felt a little nervous but overall felt fine about her routine."

Sophomore Tara Fehr continued to wow the judges with her jumps and leaps on the floor exercise and earned herself a new personal-best score of 6.5.

The balance beam event total of 28.25 was a new season high for the Tigers and was also the second highest balance beam event total of the six teams competing that day.

"Typically the balance beam is the event that really tests a team," explained Oberg. "We had a very good day on beam with two Tigers sticking their routines - they did not have any spots or falls."

Junior Jessica Daly had a solid performance by sticking her beam routine and receiving a personal-best score of 7.25. Senior co-captain Katie Huot also stuck her beam routine receiving a score of 8.15 - good enough for a fourth place finish.

"A couple of area coaches were impressed with Huot's performance on beam and the entire teams' efforts on beam," said Oberg. "It was a good feeling to have other coaches make comments like that.

"The balance beam is continuing to impress me and I would be willing to bet that there will be more stuck routines in the future as well as higher scores.

"Our vault scores are respectable and I am happy with where we are on that event. There is always room for improvement and we are working on increasing the difficulty of our vaults, which in turn will raise the scores.

"The uneven bars continue to be a thorn in our side," added Oberg. "This seems to be our weakest event. It tends to be a mixture of upper body strength and connections that hurt us the most. This will be an area of focus for the team in the upcoming weeks."

Assistant coach Samantha Jipson commented, "The floor routines are becoming cleaner and the girls are showing a lot more confidence. It's exciting to see a lot more team spirit."

With only two meets under their belt, the Morris Tiger gymnasts are edging up on the high score they received at the end of last season - 113.075.

"We are getting set for a very exciting season," commented Oberg. "It was interesting to hear the scores at the end of the meet. To know that there was a little over seven points separating fifth place and second place is exciting. We see these teams in the future and have some high hopes.

As Katie Huot put it, "Morris is making a comeback. We still haven't reached our full potential."