2010-11 WInter Preview: A return to gloryOver the past two years four former standout gymnasts have returned to Park High School in order to try to help the Wolfpack return to glory.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, South Washington County Bulletin
Who says you can’t go home again?
This season, three former standout gymnasts have returned to Park High School in order to try to help the Wolfpack return to glory.
Last year, Christina Ortiz — a Park 2007 graduate and a three-time state champion with the Wolfpack — joined the Park staff as an assistant.
This season, Krissie Thrush, Lindsey Raymond and Kayla Land also united with Ortiz and the Wolfpack gymnastics team as assistant coaches in order to give back to the school — and the sport — they love.
In 2004 Park celebrated its finest season, earning a Class AA state championship.
Park closed its 2006-07 campaign earning the state’s third-place honors with 148 points, just behind state champion and fellow SEC competitor Roseville. As seniors that year, Land and Ortiz made their case as two of the state’s finest gymnasts as Land became the 2007 Class AA all-around champion with a score of 38.975 and Ortiz took fifth with 38.425.
Current Park gymnasts, Jordan Arganbright and Tessa Sikich were on that team, too.
“It’s so cool to have them back,” Tessa Sikich said. “They have so much experience. They’ve been through club and through high school, so they know everything. The girls are learning so much from them. Sometimes it’s different when you hear something from them, because they’re almost like teammates. It’s a different perspective, which is awesome.”
A member the 2004 state championship team, Ortiz won individual state titles in three separate seasons. She was the state champion in the floor exercise as an eighth-grader and as a freshman and won the state title on the beam as a senior as Park finished third as a team in the state meet. She is currently in the Wolfpack gymnastics’ Hall of Fame.
Land is also one of the most decorated gymnasts in Park history. In 2007 Land finished as the Class AA state all-around champion with a score of 38.975, also taking second place in the vault, with a 9.8 and on the bars, with a 9.775. That year, Land also made headlines by becoming the third gymnast in state history to register a perfect 10, which she did in an SEC meet in Forest Lake.
Raymond was an All-State competitor as a sophomore in 2002 and was a member of the Wolfpack’s third-place team in 2002-03. Thrush was also a standout all-arounder for Park in the 03-04 season when Park won its state title. Coach Sikich said the girls helped put Park gymnastics on the map and it makes him feel good they wanted to come back and help out.
“I always hope I do things correctly and the kids want to come back,” said Sikich, who is in his 29th overall season with the team and 19th as head coach. “It’s a warm feeling that I have that once I step aside, the strength and tradition of the program will continue with the younger coaches that are in this program. They know the traditions, where we came from and our expectations. It’s wonderful that they can be here to carry on that tradition.”
Tessa Sikich said the girls know about their new coaches’ achievements.
“I know the girls realize what they did and want to do that too,” she said. “They’re a little bit of an inspiration.”
Raymond said gymnastics was the best part of high school for her and said that is why she returned.
“It’s all I really thought about,” Raymond said. “I love the team and love gymnastics. That’s why I’m back. When I was on the team, coach Sikich and the rest of the coaching staff was awesome. They helped me with a lot of stuff. I want to give that back to the girls that are on the team now. I want to be a good role model for them and teach them things I was taught in high school. Having Mark around is a huge thing. He’s like a second dad to me.”
Raymond said she hopes the girls on the team can relate to them.
“Being girls and being gymnasts, so recently, we’ve been there,” she said. “We still know what it’s like. We’ve been through that. We can help them get through it.”
Key returnees, new additions make Park formidable
Despite a score of 142.25 — its third best of the year — the Park gymnastics team’s season came to an end at last year’s Section 3AA championship meet, as the Wolfpack finished in third place overall and failed to have an individual gymnast qualify for the state meet. Lakeville North won the Section 3AA team title with a score of 145.85, besting second-place Eagan, which had a 145.4 score. Behind Park, Rosemount finished fourth with a score of 141.22.
At the section meet, Arganbright, now a junior, was the closest to a state meet berth, finishing in fifth place on the beam with a score of 9.125. The fourth-best and lowest state-qualifying score was a 9.2. Park freshman Sarah LaBrosse also was within reach of the state meet, taking sixth place in two events — the vault with a score of 9.25 and in the uneven bars with a 9.0 score. Park junior Baylee Erickson was the top finisher for the Wolfpack in the all-around and in the floor exercise, taking eighth in each event. Erickson scored a 35.925 in the all-around and a 9.275 in the floor exercise.
Park finished 6-3 in the Suburban East Conference, which was good for third place, earning wins over White Bear Lake, Stillwater, Cretin-Derham Hall and East Ridge. The Wolfpack suffered losses to Woodbury and Forest Lake early in the year and fell just short of beating perennial power Roseville.
Though Sikich and Park had to say good-bye to two seniors — Munger and McDowell — who had been with the program for three years, the Wolfpack returns a large portion of last year’s top gymnasts and even added some new athletes to the mix, in order to try and get back to the state tournament. The last three years, since Land’s senior year, Park has been unable to send a gymnast to the state meet.
“We have one of our bigger teams this year with 18 girls on the team,” coach Sikich said. “I think the girls need to realize how lucky they are to be in the situation they are in. We’re not going to leave a rock unturned this year, so we can get them as good as they can possibly be.”
Key returnees for the Wolfpack this season include Arganbright, LaBrosse, Erickson, seniors Sammy Johnson, Jessie Malin and Tessa Sikich, junior Hannah Schroeder, sophomores McKay Zurn, Morgan Schank and McKayla Dickmeyer and freshman Michaela Thielfoldt.
New additions this season include freshman Kelly McKenzie, who was a Class A state participant last year for East Ridge, and sophomore Kasondra Tulloch, who was a standout gymnast for the Perpetual Motion club team the last few years.
“The potential is there,” Land said. “They just need to find it within themselves to keep going throughout the year. The girls need to believe they are as good as the coaches believe they are. Gymnastics is a very mental sport. Just because you have one bad routine, it doesn’t mean the meet is over.”
Park begins its season at Park High School on Thursday, Dec. 2, against Stillwater. Park plays host to East Ridge on Thursday, Jan. 8, and travels to Woodbury on Thursday, Jan. 13. Prior to sections, other key meets include, the Park Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 22, and the Wolfpack’s home finale on Thursday, Feb. 3, against Roseville.
“We’re so close this season — these girls are like my sisters and I love them to death,” Tessa Sikich said. “We have so much potential. I’m really excited for this season.”