A perfect 10: Sikich wins Coach of the Year honorPark longtime coach Mark Sikich was honored as the 2012 Minnesota Class AA Gymnastics Coach of the Year by the Minnesota Girls Gymnastics Coaches Association.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
The coaching performance by longtime Park gymnastics coach Mark Sikich this past season could’ve been scored a perfect 10.
Sikich, who has been the head gymnastics coach at Park High School for the past 20 years and a coach of multiple sports for 30 years, was honored as the 2012 Minnesota Class AA Gymnastics Coach of the Year by the Minnesota Girls Gymnastics Coaches Association.
“I was very surprised,” Sikich said. “It’s very humbling. It’s also very special because it is voted on by your peers. It really means something when your peers recognize what you’re doing. There’s a lot of people that have a say in the matter. It’s a great award.”
It is the third coach of the year award for Sikich, who is also already a member of the Minnesota Girls Gymnastics Coaches Association Hall of Fame as well as being a Concordia University — St. Paul Athletic Hall of Fame member.
Sikich was voted coach of the year by his peers after winning the Section 3AA Coach of the Year honor. He said all of the honors were “special in their own way.”
“Every year brings new challenges and new situations that arise,” Sikich said. “But, I think about where we’ve been and where we’ve come from and this one is definitely one I won’t ever forget.”
This past season, Sikich was Park’s co-head coach along with Terry Hardy. Despite battling numerous injuries over the course of the year, Park finished in fourth place in the Class AA state meet, nearly matching the team’s finish from a year ago when Park took third place. Park made its 14th appearance at the state gymnastics meet this year scoring a season-high 147.3 as a team – just down from last year’s 149.825. This season, Park returned seven of its top eight gymnasts from last year’s third-place team and seemed destined for even greater things. However, with a number of key gymnasts sidelined with injuries, Park limped through the year, hitting a season-low at the end of January, losing to Mounds View 135.8 to 122.9 — less than a month before the section meet.
But, with a number of key gymnasts returning to the mat, Park scored a 144.45 and edged Suburban East Conference and District 833 rival East Ridge to earn the Section 3AA championship and a second-straight state meet berth.
With Sikich, Hardy and assistant coaches Krissie Thrush and Lindsey Raymond scrambling to put together lineups for some of the meets, Sikich said he looked at it as a chance to show what they could do as coaches.
“I think adversity reveals character,” Sikich said. “The kids persevered this year and the coaches did too. I told our coaches it was a great opportunity to show what we could do as coaches under the circumstances. We believed in the kids and they felt it.”
Sikich said it was a tough season, but that the coaches couldn’t get down — and, in turn, let the kids down.
“We couldn’t show it,” Sikich said. “We had to keep fighting and fighting and try to instill that in the kids. I think it worked.”
Sikich gave a lot of the credit for Park’s success to his coaching staff.
“Terry has grown so much in recent years and shown maturity, understanding and perseverance. He embodies everything in a coach that I would feel comfortable turning the program over to. Krissie and Lindsey, being former gymnasts of mine, have been through it all also. They’re all wonderful. What they did with the kids this year was incredible.”
Park celebrated its finest season in 2004 while led by Sikich, earning a Class AA state championship. Sikich and the Wolfpack also finished in third place in 2007.
Sikich, a 1983 graduate of Concordia, played football and tennis all four years he was enrolled at the university. In each of his four years playing for the men’s tennis team, Sikich earned All-Conference honors. On the football field, Sikich, an offensive guard, was voted team captain and was All-Conference in both his junior and senior years. The team was co-conference champions in both of those seasons.
After graduating, Sikich became the head men’s tennis coach at Concordia for two years. Prior to joining the staff at Park, Sikich honed his coaching skills at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis and at St. Paul Central High School while working as a substitute teacher in his first years after graduating from college.
With yet another season in the rearview mirror, Sikich said he’s already looking forward to next year.
“We’re hungry and the kids are hungry too,” Sikich said.