Austin gymnasts hoping to keep up the improvements at state meet

Published 6:29 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Austin gymnastics team is hoping to cap off a season of steady improvements with one last strong showing when it competes in the Class ‘A’ state gymnastics meet for the first time in school history at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis Friday at 11 a.m.

The Packers’ scores have steadily improved this season but they hit a season’s best mark with 143.4 points at the Section 1A tournament this past Saturday and senior Sabrina Snater thinks the team still has room to improve on.

“We still have points to gain everywhere,” she said. “We had falls that were taken and deductions that were taken. We know where those came from and we know how to improve and the scores can keep rising.”

The Packers will be competing against a strong field at the state meet. Perham, the six time defending state champs, return eight of their gymnasts from last season and the field also includes five other teams that were in state last season. Austin and Delano are the only newcomers in the eight-team field.

Austin head coach Mark Raymond is hoping the team can keep up with its improvements and deliver a solid performance on Friday.

“I think if we drew the line right a that five spot, then fifth place and up would be a real step for the program in the right direction if we’re looking at building every week,” he said. “If we’re not going to rest and continue to expand in the direction we’re going, we’ve go to put another big number up in the 140s and be a top five team.”

The Packers have already seen Perham first hand, when Austin took fifth place out of 10 teams at the ‘true team’ state meet a few weeks back, so there shouldn’t be an intimidation factor, especially for Snater and Sela Fadness, who both competed at the individual state meet last season and have qualified individually again this season.

“This year I’ll know what to expect,” said Fadness, an eighth grader who will compete individually in all four events and the all-around competition. “Last year was an eye opening experience for me and I was blown away by the ability of the girls. This year we belong there as a team and individually we belong there as well. It will be easier to go out and compete this year without being shocked by the other girls’ ability.”

Besides Perham, Austin competed against six other teams at “true team” that they will see again at state Friday. Raymond said that takes away a lot of the shock factor and it will make it easier for the gymnasts to focus on their own routines.

“Being in the gym with everybody puts us on the same level and the shine has maybe worn off some of these teams. Because now we’re beginning to understand that we belong,” he said.

The Packers have performed strong in big meets so far this season. Besides taking fifth in the ‘true team’ state meet, Austin was second in the Big Nine meet and first in the Section 1A meet.

“We just performed to our best and it was amazing to see how we performed under pressure,” Snater said. “We practice hard and we compete hard too.”

Fadness said the team hasn’t felt a lot of pressure yet and they’re mostly focused on getting the team score higher in every meet.

“Our scores have not stopped building all season and we haven’t had a downfall,” said Fadness. “(The section meet) was just another meet that was going to rise from the one before.”

In the individual competition, which takes place Saturday at the Sports Pavilion at 11 a.m., 17 of the 30 medal winners are returning from last season. Fadness took 30th in all-around competition and 31st in bars last season and Snater, who will compete in the all-around, beam and floor exercise, was 26th in floor exercise and 31st in bars last season.

“I don’t think being there last year makes it any easier trying to compete, but it makes it more fun and you can concentrate on what you need to do instead of watching everyone else,” Snater said.

While she’s pleased to be going to state individually, Snater is also glad to bring her whole team, which has three seniors, with her this time around.

“It means a lot since I’m a senior and I won’t have this opportunity again. It’s real special for me to see how far the team has come in such a short amount of time,” she said. “Making it to state is the first of a very big ordeal. The bar is now set higher and it’ll keep raising expectations for the next team that makes it and the team after that.”

Raymond thinks Fadness and Snater both have an advantage in having qualifying last year and he thinks Friday’s team competition will also help ease their nerves. He thinks they can both drastically improve on last year’s performance at state.

“They both have routines that can qualify in the top ten,” Raymond said. “But a lot of its out of our hands in the way that other girls perform and you don’t know what’s going to happen there.”

Fadness is one of the Austin’s five athletes that are in seventh through ninth grade and she hopes the team can make the state tournament a tradition.

“We have come so far ability-wise since last year .This year we had one hundred percent confidence going into sections that we were going to go out there and hit our routines. We knew we could do it,” she said. “We have a lot of young girls on our team and next year we will definitely be losing some valuable girls, but I don’t think we end here. I think we have a lot more in our future.”