The Dickinson High gymnastics team competed in its final regular season meet during the Glen Heiser Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 9, from the Dickinson High Gym. It was not only the final home meet of the season for the Midgets - it was also the final time a pair of seniors were able to perform in high school competition in front of their family and friends.
Seniors Dacia Rambousek and Meghan Ackerman were introduced to the crowd one last time before the meet. With all of the gymnasts flanked by their parents and loved ones, the moment was particularly emotional for one senior as head coach Kent Van Ells took the microphone to express his appreciation of the girls' time with the program.
"Because it was our parents' night, when our parents were announced, I did tear up a little when Mr. V was giving our little speech to us," Rambousek said, "but other than that, I just focused on having a good meet, cheering with my team and having fun overall."
By meet's end, Rambousek had captured her third all-around title this season, amassing her best score of the year of 37.775. The senior's efforts were highlighted by her performance in her strongest event: the balance beam. Rambousek collected a top number of 9.75, good enough for her second-highest score in that event this season.
"I've actually had the same routine for two or three years now, so I've been able to practice that for a couple years, which not a lot of gymnasts get, but because of my higher-level skills when I was younger, I was just able to improve them over the years instead of learning new skills," Rambousek explained.
Describing the day as "bittersweet" and "an emotional rollercoaster," Ackerman was victorious in the uneven bars with a mark of 9.55, earning third in the all-around after scoring 37.450.
Two weeks removed from a career highlight - cleanly landing a front handspring, front tuck on the vault - and her best all-around score of the season at the Fern Pokorny Invite on Feb. 26, Ackerman enters the WDA Championship on Friday, Feb. 15, with loads of momentum.
"It definitely feels good to get my second-highest all-around," Ackerman said. "The season did kind of start off rough for me, but lately, towards the end of the season, I've been getting kind of confident. And I think for me it's just about focusing on the one thing at a time in practice and not looking too far ahead, but definitely going into WDA this week with a great, regular-season meet, my confidence level is pretty high."
While the seniors are each peaking at the right time and serve as the team's leaders, the manner in which they've effectively led is drastically different due to their differing personalities.
Ackerman is fiery, vocal, full of emotion and uses her spirit to spark her results.
"I think it kind of rubs off on all my teammates," Ackerman said. "If they're having a bad practice or if they had a bad routine at a meet, I think I'm always there to pick them up and make them see the positive sides of things. I'll let them know that it's going to be OK and they'll have more chances at it. I think if the girls see that I'm having fun and I'm just like a ball of energy. They see that and it just rubs off on them, and maybe they'll want to follow in those steps too."
Rambousek has not only been a steady performer throughout her career but also someone who has been steady in her approach on the mat. She hopes her calm manner can influence some of the girls on the team who aren't boisterous.
"I really feel like I can be a leader to some of the younger girls who are scared or more nervous because I am more of a shy and reserved person," Rambousek said. "I feel like this season, my team is helping me perform so well, that's going to give them the confidence that they need to perform that well as well."
Regardless of the way the two seniors have reached their heights, they have done so together, beginning their time with the program as seventh-graders and contributing to four state championship teams.
"We have been competing together for a very long time," Ackerman said. "It's definitely going to be weird not coming to the gym every day after practice and not seeing her. We both are going to go our separate ways, but I think it's all going to hit me in the state meet that last time. It was such a great ride with Dacia. A lot of highs and a lot of lows, but she's definitely a sister to me and we've become very close over these years of competing. So I'm definitely going to miss her."
"Being able to come onto this team together, having all of the championships together, and finishing off the season together is really special to me," Rambousek added.