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Gymnastics: Anderson reaches state amid adversity

At 11 a.m. today, Irina Anderson will step onto the floor of the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. Ahead of her will be a runway, at the end of which Anderson will vault.

No matter what happens after that, Anderson will likely be smiling. 

After all, the Red Wing junior wasn’t sure she could even compete this year, let alone take up a spot at the Class A state gymnastics meet.

This past spring, Anderson had foot surgery, leaving her competitive future in doubt. But even as she rehabbed, the program itself was in limbo. There was nowhere to put the equipment; the Wingers had no place to call home.

The summer came and went, and, still, Red Wing gymnastics was hanging on hope. September passed without any resolution. October began with the same problem.

Finally, the new Red Wing Area Gymnastics Center stepped up to house the team. There would be no home meets as the space was too small.

But it was something.

And at that point anything would do.

“I went through the hard part for sections, I think now it’s just time for me to have fun, enjoy that I’m here with my coaches and part of my team,” Anderson said. “I mean, I’ll still try and be focused, but (the goal) is mostly to have fun.”

A good time and steady improvement have been the goals for the Wingers for most of the past four months. The team is young, with just three seniors on the roster. The state meet was something that was on the schedule, but the only way anyone figured to get in was to pay admission.

“This is a crazy week for my personal family,” said Red Wing co-head coach Lisa Hanson, “and last week as we were doing our schedule, my husband said, ‘Now is there any chance you guys end up in the state meet?’ I said, ‘You know, if somebody is really on their game, maybe. But there’s a very small chance. It’s going to be fine. And then, of course, we get Irina in and we had to rearrange our entire family schedule. Which I’m so glad we did.”

Cancelling or postponing a weekend’s worth of plans is nothing when you’ve been through a season that almost never happened. Instead of some time away, Hanson will instead be coaching Anderson at a state tournament.

And if Anderson happens to have a look of awe on her face, know that it’s not because she’s a state gymnast. That ship sailed last week after the section meet.

No, the look of wonder is because of the setting, not the competition. Anderson won’t have to begin her run next to a bathroom wall, dodging teammates who are just trying to get to the next apparatus.

“Oh my gosh,” Anderson said. “I thought (the sports pavilion) was really big. I thought it was kind of spread out weird, but it was still pretty cool that it was that big. I have a lot of room to do my stuff.”

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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