Dickinson High Midgets gymnastics returns talented youth

Acacia Fossum is already the winner of four North Dakota all-around gymnastics state titles in her career for Dickinson High. Last season as a junior, she placed first in three of the four events -- uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise --...

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Dickinson High senior gymnast Keana Kudrna practices her routine on the beam during Tuesday’s practice. (Press Photo by Parker Cotton)

Acacia Fossum is already the winner of four North Dakota all-around gymnastics state titles in her career for Dickinson High.
Last season as a junior, she placed first in three of the four events - uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise - and second in vault at the state meet in Minot.
Just a few days prior to starting her senior season, Fossum spoke of a single, almost incomprehensible goal: She wants to get even better.
“Even if your score doesn’t improve, if I’m doing a harder skill than last year, that makes me think I improved,” Fossum said. “Even if my score doesn’t improve, I like working on new things because I get bored, and if that improves my score just a tenth, I’ll do that. Whatever it takes.”
The argument is that there isn’t a great deal of room from improvement, but that’s not stopping her from trying.
“Once you get in the 9.5 to 10 range, you can’t add a lot (of points),” head coach Kent Van Ells said. “Acacia always feels like she needs to keep improving, despite the fact that she’s scored in that 9.5 to 10 since she was a seventh-grader. That also puts more risk into it. She could back off and do less and be safer and still get these big scores, but she doesn’t want to. That’s why she does so well.”
Fossum and fellow senior Keana Kudrna, who finished second at state in the all-around last year, will lead the Midgets’ gymnastics team into its season-opening invitational at 5:30 p.m. today at Dickinson High School. Dickinson will welcome Wahpeton, Mandan and defending state champion Minot for the first competition of the year. The Midgets placed runner-up to Minot last season.
“We press on them that it’s a long season and they don’t have to be perfect right away,” Van Ells said, “but they feel pressure because Minot’s coming. It affects them for sure. They want to do well right away.”

With just two seniors and no juniors on the team, most of the roster is comprised of younger members, but they provide Dickinson some very talented depth.
Freshman Ayanna Fossum, Acacia’s sister, placed sixth in the all-around at state last season, and sophomore Faith Beck was 25th. Van Ells said he’s also looking forward to the contributions from sophomore Karsen Stroh and freshman Meghan Ackerman, among others.
“I think the last couple of years, Faith and Ayanna and Meghan, they’ve had some older girls to lean back on, and now it’s me and Keana,” Acacia Fossum said. “We’re the only older ones, and we have to count on them, and that’s opened their eyes to understand that they’re going to be a big part of the team this year. I think we can count on them a lot.”
With very little turnover from last season, Kudrna believes the team has bonded quite a bit as it has prepared for the new year.
“We only did lose one senior, and we got one new seventh-grader, so we have a lot of depth,” she said. “We’ve all improved and gotten really close as a team. It’ll be a really fun year.”
Entering the season, Kudrna is nursing a stress fracture in the talus bone in her right foot, which will prevent her from competing in vault and floor today. She will be on the bars and, she hopes, the beam.
“I’m trying to heal as fast as I can,” she said.
It’s the same injury as what shortened her regular season as a junior, but she hopes to be competing in all events again after Christmas.
“When she’s back, it’ll be a big addition,” Acacia Fossum said. “She is a huge part of our team. Even having her do two events this weekend will help a lot too.”
Van Ells said he was excited to watch Kudrna and Acacia Fossum during their senior years, knowing they’ll compete at a high level.
“I think Keana’s right there with her,” he said. “The beam is the exception - the beam has been tough for Keana - but I’d say she has a better vault, and they’re very equal on floor. Acacia has maybe the toughest bar routine I’ve ever seen in high school gymnastics, but Keana does really well on bars also.”
It’s not a bad duo to have leading his team, and the seniors hope to get their final seasons off to the right start - and finish.
“Since it’s my senior year, I want to finish out like I did last year,” Acacia Fossum said. “This year, I want to peak instead of having last year be my best year.”

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