Packer gymnasts are thinking bigPublished 8:10pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The Packer gymnasts are about to make their third state meet appearance in the past four years and they’re hoping to finish much better than the fifth place finish they put up in their first two state meets.
Austin, which will compete in the Class ‘A’ state team meet Friday at the University of Minnesota Pavilion at 11 a.m., has set a school record in its past three meets and if it duplicates the score of 148.375 it put up last week in the Section 1A meet, it could be within reach of a state title.
“We’re go into this with the mindset of taking first. That’s the goal,” said Austin sophomore Abby Bickler. “We have it in our heads that we are going to go for that number one spot.”
It’s no coincidence that the Packers are coming in with a score that is 6.10 points better than it what it put up in the state meet last season.
The team has put in a lot of work over the summer and it’s athletes all stay busy in other sports as well. Senior Abby Snater has competed in the state track meet in the pole vault, sophomore Carolyn Hackel has competed in the state track meet as a sprinter, junior Sela Fadness is in track and girls soccer, and sophomore Abby Bickler started on the softball team as a freshman.
“I like to see my girls doing other things,” Austin head coach Mark Raymond said. “It builds that competitive nature and we love the fact that we have three sport athletes. You could invent a game and these girls would probably learn how to win it.”
Hackel and Bickler have been side by side on the gymnastics team since they came up as seventh graders on the first state qualifying Austin team in school history.
The two have found plenty of ways to keep their competitive attitude.
“We both have so much competitiveness, not only in gymnastics but in everything we do,” Bickler said. “Whether, it’s who’s better in school or who races up the stairs faster.”
As Austin prepares for the state meet, its sights are on New Prague, which is new to Class ‘A’ this season after being Class ‘AA’, last season, Melrose, which won the Class ‘A’ state meet last season and Perham, which is a perennial power in gymnastics.
Fadness said the Packers are not intimidated by New Prague’s presence and Austin already showed it can compete with the top teams in the state when it won the ‘true team’ Class ‘A’ state meet earlier this season.
“Melrose is still a contender and having New Prague there is good,” Fadness said. “I wouldn’t want to win it because there was bad competition, I’d want to win it because we had downright good competition and that we deserved it.”
Most of the Packers have state experience, but it will be the first time for a few girls, including eighth grader Maddie Mullenbach and seventh grader Jennifer Boyle, who could crack the lineup this week after sitting out of the Section 1A meet.
“The lineup we used at sections was to get our individual qualifiers through,” Raymond said. “Friday our goal is a little different. We’re looking for people that can do the best job for the team and we might use a little different lineup.”
Austin opens up on the beam and Raymond is hoping his team can get off to a fast start. He said the Packers hit on 19 of their 20 performances last week and he’s hoping they can come close that number on Friday.
Hackel is hoping the Packers can come through in all four events.
“We haven’t really had one meet were every girl has hit their routine,” she said. “It’s like we were holding out for Big Nine, then we were holding out for sections and now we’re holding out for state. I think it’s now setting in that we have one shot for everyone to hit and we’ll all be ready.”
The entire state meet — team competition on the 22nd and individual competition on the 23rd — will be webcast live and free on Prep45.com. Austin will compete at 11 a.m. both days.