The Dickinson Midgets are one of North Dakota’s elite high school girls’ gymnastics programs, winners of 11 state titles, four of the last five and two straight.
They make their yearly trek to the Rapid City Gym-O-Rama to see other teams and judges that they don’t see in their own state. Once again they dominated, running away with the Gym-O-Rama team title Saturday at the Rapid City High School Annex Gymnasium.
Dickinson finished with 146.875 points, followed by Pierre at 138.375 and Hot Springs at 128.075 points. Chamberlain was fourth at 124.275, with Stevens at 124.000 and Central at 42.90.
It was a tough situation to be in against quality competition, Central and Stevens head coach Pam Junek said.
“Sometimes we have to work on those life lessons,” she said. “You have to have your head into what you are doing and not make mistakes.”
The eight gymnasts, most of which were among the top competitors from both squads, can practice with the teams, but aren't eligible to compete until Feb. 2 at the state qualifier.
Junek said Saturday’s meet gave some of their younger performers the opportunity to get on the equipment, do some routines and get some scores.
“It was interesting because there was a lot of pressure coming into this meet,” Junek said. “It’s a home meet and it’s a big meet, and we had some strong competition that was here. For some of them, they weren’t ready for that level of competition, so it was an eye-opening experience for them.
“We appreciate the fact they got some experience on the equipment because typically our rosters are full. Having the younger kids come in and have that opportunity, it is good for them.”
Junior Cayla Klapperich led Stevens with a fifth-place finish in the all-around with 34.375 points, while teammate Kaili Chikos was eighth with 33.125 points. Klapperich also finished fifth in the bars (8.9500) and sixth on the floor exercise (9.2750).
“Cayla did fine. She didn’t compete last weekend (in Pierre) because she was at her brother’s wedding, so she had two weeks off,” Junek said. “For her to come in today and do as well as she did, we were pretty proud of her. She’s working hard and is vying for some spots. She has qualified for state on floor already, so that is good that she is moving and advancing.
“Kaili Chikos is an 8th grader from Southwest and she is starting to get her feet underneath her and starting to understand that it is different competing in high school gymnastics rather than club gymnastics. She did pretty well.”
Also for Stevens, Fiona Donhiser tied for 10th on the floor experience with 8.7500, while Central’s Reece Lowe was ninth on the beam with 8.6000 points.
Dickinson had three of the top four all-around performers, led by sophomore Ayanna Fossum, who was second in the North Dakota state all-around last season. Fossum finished with 37.975 points, ahead of teammate Teghan Hoff (37.100) and Pierre’s Mikah Moser (36.700). Dickinson’s Meghan Ackerman was fourth at 36.475.
Fossum also won the balance beam with 9.700 points, the floor (9.7500) and the vault (9.2750). Hoff won the bars with 9.4250 points.
Dickinson coach Kent Van Ells said his gymnansts had a good meet.
“We were a little short-handed, but felt good with what we did,” he said. “We were happy about it.”
Van Ells added that their North Dakota state dominance comes from a lot of good gymnasts coming up at a young age and sticking with the program.
“We have six 7th graders and some of them were here today, and did really well. Teghan Hoff, Brooklyn Deguzman and Amy Fridley. That kind of thing is what really makes our program go,” he said. “The gymnasts have been here for a while and keep getting better. It’s been a continuous thing for us.”
This meet is the one time each season the Midgets come down to South Dakota, something Van Ells said they really enjoy doing.
“In North Dakota, wherever we go, we see the same 10-12 teams,” he said. “It is nice to come down here and see some different competition and different judges.”
They’ll be shooting for their third straight state title in about a month.
“We’ll do our best, but I think we have a shot at it,” Van Ells said.
Hot Springs had its second best team score of the season and was led by Tierra Schroeder, who was ninth in the all-around with 32.875 points, and Diamond Miller, who was 10th at 32.425.
Schroeder was also sixth on the vault (8.5500), eighth on the floor (8.9750) and 10th on the beam (8.4000). Miller also finished eighth on the beam (8.6250) and 10th on the floor (8.7500).
Stevens and Central return to action Saturday at the Pierre Triangular, while Hot Springs hosts the Hot Springs Invite on Friday.