Gymnastics season preview: Young Wingers lack varsity experienceLast season, Hennessy excelled in all four events. The Wingers lack a gymnast who's dominant in all four disciplines this season; a different girl is best at each event. Mayer considers the parity to be a plus.
By: Ryan Nilsson, The Republican Eagle
2008-09 recap: Led by senior Anna Hennessy, the Wingers finished third at the Section 1A tournament with a season-best score of 134.625. Hennessy placed 24th in the all-around competition, 22nd in the vault and 28th in the floor exercise at the Class A state meet.
Young team lacks depth: A year ago, Red Wing had 16 gymnasts and only one senior. There were six sophomores and one freshman on the 2008-09 squad and not one is back.
The Wingers' roster this season is comprised of three eighth-graders, five freshman and two seniors.
"They're young, but highly skilled," Red Wing coach Beth Mayer. "The hard part about having the team be so young -- even though we have a lot of returning letter-winners -- it's the lack of experience in competition, which can be nerve racking."
Given that many of the gymnasts competing for other Missota Conference schools have easier access to high-level clubs, the Wingers make the Section 1A meet the focal point of their season.
However, a pair of suburban schools -- East Ridge in Woodbury and Simley in Inver Grove Heights -- whose gymnasts figure to have that same out-of-season training edge joined the section this season.
They, along with Pine Island, could be the teams to beat at the Section 1A meet, according to Mayer.
"We're more worried about the new Woodbury school because of the size of the school and the more opportunities for older girls," Mayer said.
Red Wing will not compete against East Ridge or Simley during the regular season. However, it will face section foes Byron-Rochester Lourdes, La Crescent and Pine Island at today's invite.
Balance: Last season, Hennessy excelled in all four events. The Wingers lack a gymnast who's dominant in all four disciplines this season; a different girl is best at each event. Mayer considers the parity to be a plus.
"Sometimes it's kind of scary being the last person on every event," Mayer said. "Each meet you feel that you have a lot of pressure. (This year) they get to rotate who's the last person on each event."
Uneven bars: Seniors Kirsten Bluhm and Karina Buczko echoed the same sentiment: The uneven bars will be a work in progress for the Wingers.
"That's going to be our weakest point just because we need the skills (and) we don't have the higher skills quite yet," Bluhm said. "We don't have the releases. And it was just at the end of the season that we started to get to a point where we were able to work on those.
"So we just need to get our base routines down at the moment for (today) and then we'll be able to work those higher skills back in to get those higher routine values."