Residual magicBack in February, the Park gymnastics team took third place in the Class AA state meet. Nine members of that team are on the Wolfpack track team this season and are working hard to make it equally successful.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, South Washington County Bulletin
This spring, the Park girls track team is hoping for a little residual magic.
Back in February, the Park gymnastics team took third place in the Class AA state meet after winning the Section 3AA and Suburban East Conference championship titles. Nine members of the Wolfpack gymnastics team are on the track team this season and are working hard to make it equally successful.
Park head girls track and field coach Matt Maher said the biggest thing the gymnasts carry to the track is a winning attitude.
“They bring an attitude of ‘why not us?’” Maher said. “It’s great. I can see it in the gymnasts and it spreads through the whole team. They expect a little more. They know their roles and just get things done. They are great kids to work with.”
To earn a trip to the gymnastics state meet this winter, Park needed to come from behind in the last event. Heading into the final rotation, Park trailed Eagan by nearly two points — 110.925 to 109.225. However, Park uncorked a 38.6 in the floor exercise and Eagan scored a 35.7 on the beam, giving the Wolfpack a 1.2-point advantage and the Section 3AA crown.
“Talk about a character builder,” Maher said. “Those are high stress situations. Being in front of all those people, rising to the occasion and holding their heads high. They did it.”
At Park’s recent Section 2AAA True Team track meet, the Park girls earned fourth place overall after taking seventh place last year. Park’s gymnasts were instrumental to the Wolfpack’s finish.
Park senior gymnast and track athlete Tessa Sikich won her top event, the discus, at the Section True Team meet and is sixth on Park’s all-time list in the event. Sarah LaBrosse, a freshman, earned third place in the triple jump and sixth place in the long jump, while Kasondra Tulloch, a sophomore, took sixth place in the triple jump. Additionally, Park gymnast McKay Zurn earned seventh place in the high jump and Morgan Schank took seventh place in the 300-meter hurdles. Other Park gymnasts on the track team — Sammy Johnson, Jessie Malin, Kelly McKenzie and Allie Minogue — also had solid finishes that contributed to the team’s outcome.
“They know it’s OK to win,” Maher said. “I think a lot of times high school kids don’t know how to win — they’ve just never been in that position. But now that winning spirit is in them and they’re working harder than ever.”
Sikich said she felt the main reason the girls on the gymnastics team came out for track is to be conditioned for gymnastics through track and to be in just more than one sport.
“It’s definitely fun,” she said. “We just don’t have gymnastics in common, we have track in common too. You get to see all different sides of these girls and to be out of the gym and be with them is a lot of fun.”
Sikich said she doesn’t actively recruit her gymnastics teammates to try out for track.
“Some people think I do, but I really don’t,” she said. “It’s cool when they ask me about different things. I can tell them about my experiences. I may have persuaded a couple girls to come out, but it’s really more that they want to come out.”
The Park gymnastics team’s motto this past season was, “We’re more than a team, we’re a family,” and Park head gymnastics coach Mark Sikich applies a team-first philosophy.
Maher said that philosophy has transferred from the mat to the track this spring.
“They have brought that along and it’s a really good thing,” Maher said. “They all get along really well. When the team gets along well it benefits everyone. They are very supportive of their teammates and cheer the other girls on. That’s super cool. I noticed that right away.”
Maher also said the gymnasts are helping the girls team develop a stronger work ethic and shape a more competitive spirit on the track.
“You ask them to do something and there’s no complaints,” Maher said. “That’s exactly what a coach wants to hear. That mentality of getting done whatever needs to be done is very cool. Also, they are learning it’s OK to get angry and to show emotion. That proves it means something and they want to win. That hasn’t always been there. They feel they need to get better. They’re being ultra-competitive and they’re not OK with being last.”
Coach Sikich said he is all for the Park gymnasts competing in track.
“I’m truly behind the idea of multi-sport athletes,” he said. “We have some great kids and very, very talented kids at Park High School. I truly believe that our kids at Park benefit by participating in multiple sports.”
Coach Sikich said he feels kids who play multiple sports benefit from learning on-the-field and lifelong lessons from different coaches, developing and using different muscles, having fun and meeting new kids.
“I firmly believe that sometimes when kids are competing in a single sports year round there is a tendency for kids to burnout and lose interest in that sports, which is an absolute shame,” he said.
Coach Sikich himself competed in multiple sports in his playing days. At Hibbing High School he played football, basketball, tennis, wrestled and was on the track team. In college at Concordia University, he competed in two very different sports — football and tennis.
At Concordia, Sikich was an All-Conference offensive guard for the football team and an All-Conference player for the men’s tennis team.
“I came from a situation in northern Minnesota where if kids did not participate in multiple sports we would have been hurting big time,” he said.
Coach Sikich said he felt his gymnasts were stronger this winter because of their track experiences.
“There’s no question they were extremely strong from all the working out the track kids do,” he said. “I thought it was fantastic. I think they also came back refreshed and I think that they made different connections at school.”
Tessa Sikich said she believed the sports benefited each other.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a harder workout than gymnastics, but it’s different,” she said. “In gymnastics we work a lot on the whole body and the core. In track we do more running, more lifting and focus more on specific parts of the body. With both sports, I know I have learned that besides being focused, I need to have fun at it too. If I’m not having fun with it I’m not going to have the successes that I could have. I know other people agree with that too. I love track.”