Midgets target title: Fossum leads experienced team that remains among state’s eliteFor the last four years, the Dickinson High gymnastics team has felt the emotion of coming in runner-up to Minot at the state meet.
By: Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press
For the last four years, the Dickinson High gymnastics team has felt the emotion of coming in runner-up to Minot at the state meet.
With two-time all-around champion Acacia Fossum returning and newfound depth, the Midgets continue to have their sights set on a state championship finish that has eluded them the past four seasons.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve been so close,” Dickinson junior Mikaela Kessel said. “Throughout the season, we’ve been really strong and I don’t know if we just peaked at the wrong time, but this year we’re just trying to build up and get stronger. We want to peak right at the state tournament.”
The Midgets’ first step in the road back to the state meet is hosting the Dickinson Invitational at 11 a.m. today.
“We are all a little bit scared, because it’s the first meet, but I think we’ll overcome that,” Dickinson senior McKenzie Kostelecky said. “We’ve been practicing really well lately.”
Dickinson head coach Kent Van Ells is staying optimistic about finishing in the top two the last six years. The Midgets won back-to-back state titles in 2007 and 2008 before four consecutive runner-up finishes.
“Of those four losses, there were two that could have gone our way and I think that’s the frustrating part,” Van Ells said. “Being second is better than being third or fourth. Minot’s had some good teams. This is another year where we have a chance, but I know Minot’s going to try for the same thing.”
Acacia Fossum, a freshman from Richardton-Taylor High School, has been crowned the state’s all-around champion the past two seasons.
She’s also the two-time defending champion in the floor exercise and won on the balance beam as a seventh-grader. She’s looking for a three-peat in the all-around, but she knows it won’t be easy.
“I want to win again,” Fossum said. “If I don’t, it’s not going to be the end of the world.”
“Acacia has as good of a chance as anybody,” Van Ells added. “Gymnastics is where all it takes is one fall. She’ll have a shot at it.”
Also returning with state meet experience from last year are junior Jenna Mueller, sophomore Mackenzie Heiser and freshmen Keana Kudrna and Abby Kessel. Dickinson lost Shalesa Wariner and Sierra Rosheau to graduation.
“We’re really excited,” Fossum said. “We know what to expect, because some of us have two to three years of state tournament experience.”
Kostelecky placed sixth at state in the vault with a 9.383. The Dickinson Trinity senior has been battling a shoulder injury, but she plans to continue to compete at a high level.
“I injured it again two weeks ago, but I’ve working really hard on getting it better,” Kostelecky said. “When I can do my routines, it feels really good that I can push through the pain.”
Mueller, who hurt her ankle and won’t be competing in the first couple meets, finished in a tie for second on the balance beam with a 9.267, while Kudrna took fourth in the vault (9.433) as an eighth-grader. Abby Kessel broke her hand and will likely be out until Christmas.
“Keana has continued to become a stronger gymnast, particularly on floor and bars,” Van Ells said. “She could be up there with Mikaela and Acacia in the all-around.”
Senior Chantal Urlacher, who competed in one meet last year coming off an ACL injury, and sophomore Jill Mueller, who didn’t compete at all last year, decided in mid-summer to compete this season. So far, in the early stages of the season, both should provide solid depth for the Midgets.
“Between Chantal and Jill, that’s a lot of depth that we didn’t expect to have,” Van Ells said. “Jill and Chantal are both solid all-arounders.”
Van Ells said it would be nice for Urlacher and Kostelecky to finish out their careers with a state title since they are the two remaining members from the 2008 team.
“I think it would be nice for them to bookend it,” Van Ells said.
Head coach: Kent Van Ells (29th season)
Assistant coach: Jennifer Bachamp
Last season: 2nd in state, 2nd West Region
Returners: Acacia Fossum, Fr. (two-time individual champion, two-time floor exercise champion, 2011 balance beam champion); McKenzie Kostelecky, Sr.; Jenna Mueller, Jr.; Mikaela Kessel, Jr.; Makenzie Heiser, So.; Keana Kudrna, Fr.; Abby Kessel, Fr.; Chantal Urlacher, Sr.; Jill Mueller, So.
Newcomers: Audrey Praus, 8th; Nicole Praus, 8th; Faith Beck, 7th; BayLee Fetch, 7th; Karsen Stroh, 7th; Madison Hughes, 7th.
Losses: Shalesa Wariner; Sierra Rosheau.