End of an era: Deephouse, Tulloch, Sikich move on from Park gymnastics team
For the last three years, Kasondra Tulloch and Rachel Deephouse have set the bar for the Park gymnastics team. Their coach, Mark Sikich has done the same for decades. However, with the 2012-13 season coming to a close, their run has finally reached the finish line.
The past three seasons, Park has finished as Section 3AA champions and reached three consecutive state tournaments.
Sikich, who stepped down after being a gymnastics coach at Park for 28 years, said it's the fourth run of three-straight state meets in his tenure as head coach.
"I don't know where to begin," Sikich said. "Every time we do this it's special in its own right. All of those groups of kids have been just fantastic. I wouldn't have it any way else."
Though they didn't know each other previously, Tulloch and Deephouse joined the Wolfpack as sophomores before the 2010-11 season and immediately opened eyes.
After competing for club teams in previous years -- Tulloch was with Perpetual Motion in Woodbury and Deephouse competed for Great Northern Gymnastics in St. Paul Park -- the two decided to bring their talents to their high school team.
"I'm really happy I joined the high school team," Deephouse said. "Club was really stressful. Here I gained another family. It was so much fun."
"It was a great decision," she said. "We've come a long way. I'm very proud of both of us."
Whether they like it or not, Deephouse and Tulloch have been linked since joining the Wolfpack. Both of them said they've enjoyed competing together for Park.
"I'm so proud of (Tulloch), I can't even explain it," Deephouse said. "It's good that we could be together. We both support each other and don't get mad if one wins or loses -- we're always happy for each other."
In their first year with the Wolfpack, Deephouse and Tulloch led Park to a third-place finish in the team competition and placed second and third, respectively, in the state all-around competition in 2010-11, becoming the first Park gymnasts to medal at the state meet since the 2006-07 season. Tulloch earned a 38.375 all-around score and Deephouse scored a 38.3 that year.
Last year, the duo fought through injuries to guide Park to a fourth-place team finish and, again, medal as individuals at the state meet. Though injuries slowed the two powerhouses' progress as juniors -- Deephouse was out two months with a back injury and Tulloch missed a month with a shoulder injury -- Tulloch still placed second and Deephouse earned sixth place in the floor exercise to reach the podium at the state competition.
Last week, in their final two meets for Park, the pair helped the Wolfpack take fourth at state as a team once again this past Friday, before competing as individuals on Saturday. Taking their final turns with the Wolfpack, Tulloch's earned third in the vault with a 9.6625, placed fifth in the all-around with a score of 37.7125 and was 10th on the floor with a 9.475. Individually, Deephouse finished seventh in the floor exercise with a 9.5125 and was 23rd in the vault with a 9.3375.
Park sophomore Sarah Schank, who also reached state in the all-around this year, said she holds Deephouse and Tulloch in a high regard.
"They're my role models," she said. "I definitely look up to them. They always push me, are cheering for me and are good teammates."
Next year, Tulloch will attend the University of Wisconsin-Stout next fall and compete in gymnastics for Blue Devils.
"I'm sad to leave the team, but I still have gymnastics," Tulloch said.
The state meet was Deephouse's final gymnastics meet, after competing in the sport the past nine years.
"It's so sad," Deephouse said. "I don't know what to do with my life now that there's no more gymnastics. It's going to be really, really weird."
Sikich has been the head gymnastics coach at Park High School for the past 21 years and a coach of multiple sports for 31 years. He's a three-time gymnastics Coach of the Year award winner in the state of Minnesota.
On Saturday, after the state meet, he was joined by family on the floor of the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion as he tried to take in his final moments as Park gymnastics coach.
"It still hasn't hit me that this is it," Sikich said. "It might in the spring after the banquet. I'll still be around. If they need my help, of course I'll help them."
Sikich is a member of the Minnesota Girls Gymnastics Coaches Association Hall of Fame and a Concordia University -- St. Paul Athletic Hall of Fame member. He grew up in Hibbing and is a 1983 graduate of Concordia University where he was a standout football and tennis player. After graduating college, Sikich honed his coaching skills at Concordia University, DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis and at St. Paul Central High School, before gymnastics coaching great Mike Amidon hired Sikich on at Park.
"It's been great," Sikich said. "I wouldn't change a thing. The tradition is there. The pride is there. What we've established over the years is that Park is known as a gymnastics school. I'm very, very proud of that."