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Gymnastics: Wingers look to improve with large roster turnover

Red Wing senior Carlie Sandstrom takes to the parallel uneven bars during the Wingers’ practice Tuesday. Red Wing opens their season Saturday at Byron. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)

Last year was a tough year for the Red Wing gymnastics team. This season, with second-year co-head coaches, should have been a little less stressful.

Instead, 10 gymnasts either graduated, moved out of country, switched sports or simply did not come out for the activity. That’s a big blow to a team that wasn’t big on numbers to begin with. Yet, Megan Latch and Lisa Hanson, the two coaches that share the head role, are not as concerned as one may believe. And a large part of that is 14 new faces that actually increase the roster size from a year ago.

“(It’s) not really common,” Hanson said of the turnover. “So our numbers have stayed good and we’re really pleased about that. And some of our newcomers are girls that have been away from gymnastics for a few years and have come back. They’re going to be really helpful to us.”

One of those girls is junior Abigail Rohan, who will join senior captain Carlie Sandstrom and junior captain Jordan Munson, as well as juniors Irina Anderson and Morgan Hughes. 

The rest of the varsity roster is young, including freshmen Mackenzie Irwin, Allison Byrne and Amanda DeWall, and an eighth-grader in Jaycee Gilbertson.

Also adding to the chaos of the new season is a change in venue. The team has completely moved into the Red Wing Area Gymnastics Center, and the amount of equipment and the number of girls has made training tough, and home meets impossible.

“We’re really trying to get used to our space,” Latch said. “It’s a big change to get used to, but we feel really fortunate to have it. We’re lucky to have the place.”

“If we have any struggles this year, that would be our struggle,” Hanson said of the all-away meet schedule.

The girls don’t seem particularly concerned about the new accommodations.

“We’re making the best of it,” Sandstrom said. “What I say is, ‘It’s a cozy, little gym.’ I don’t think we’re affected too (much). The vault runway is shorter, but we’re making it work.”

The joke about the runway is that to be the proper length, a gymnast would have to start in the restroom. But the fact that it’s the running joke shows that the team is in high spirits. And none of that will change when the season opens Saturday in Byron. 

Nor will the attitude change when the Wingers run into state powers, and Missota Conference rivals New Prague and Northfield down the road.

“It’s a good conference and it gives us a good challenge,” Munson said.

Latch added, “It’s good because we’re exposed to some awesome gymnastics. We have the opportunity to see the best gymnastics all the time. It’s good because we’re never complacent, we’re always pushing to better our routines and better our scores, regardless of what (the competition) is doing.”

That competition will be stiff as the Raiders are coming off a runner-up finish at the 2013 Class 1A state tournament while the Trojans will carry a Class 2A state championship into the season.

The Wingers will visit New Prague Dec. 20 then take a holiday break before travelling to Chanhassen. The closest meets to home for the Wingers are at River Falls on Jan. 18, and at Hudson on Feb. 1.

Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
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