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Eye on a three-peat

The Dickinson gymnastics team will have its sights set on history during the upcoming 2017-18 season. The Midgets are the two-time defending state champions. The legendary program has won six of the last 11 state crowns, including four of the las...

Dickinson High sophomore Ayanna Fossum goes to work on the uneven bars during last year's Dickinson Invitational on Dec. 9. (Press File Photo)
Dickinson High sophomore Ayanna Fossum goes to work on the uneven bars during last year's Dickinson Invitational on Dec. 9. (Press File Photo)

The Dickinson gymnastics team will have its sights set on history during the upcoming 2017-18 season.

The Midgets are the two-time defending state champions. The legendary program has won six of the last 11 state crowns, including four of the last five titles, and they're looking for its first three-peat in more than four decades, dating back to a stretch from 1974-76.

"They has been pressure in a way. It's always easier to be a team in the middle of the pack, but it's been a run that's been amazing," Van Ells said. "We haven't finished lower than second in a decade, so it's becoming an expectation. So I guess I can't say there's any special pressure."

Senior Faith Beck believes that being in a more controlled state helped her performances.

"The pressure is definitely there, it's just a matter of controlling it. If you let the fear get to you and over-think that's when mistakes are made," Beck said. "But if you learn to control your feelings and just think 'this is what I have to do for my team,' it's a lot easier to perform the event with the nerves just going away. You're just in the moment and it's a great feeling."

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Whether or not the girls feel any pressure entering the season, considering the unique competitive aspect of gymnastics where individuals on the same team are still competing against one another, it's safe to say they won't settle for complacency.

"They're a team, they support each other, but even during a meet that you're going to win because you know the competition isn't as good, they have each other to compete against because of the individuals aspect," Van Ells said. "Having the other girls around that compete at the same level as you or higher goes you something to shoot for. What's really hard is if you only have one good gymnasts; that gymnast then doesn't have the push from teammates to get better. Having a lot of them really does make a difference and we have quite a few this year."

Dickinson did not have any seniors on last year's title team, so much of the cast is back. They will also welcome six seventh-graders to the squad, in Ruby Benton, Courtney Roller, Teghn Hoff, Brooklyn DeGuzman, Peyton Laser and Amy Fridley. The youngsters will have a chance to follow the examples set by champions.

"I think it's really important how I present myself to them. Especially over the years, I've learned to control my emotions if I fall in a routine or don't get the score I want," Beck said. "I've definitely learned to compose myself and I hope I can portray that to the little girls."

Beck, along returning junior Meghan Ackerman and sophomore Ayanna Fossum, were selected to the All-State team last season. Fossum finished second overall as a freshman in the state individual all-around competition. Bismarck High eighth-grader Julia Red Wing defeated Fossum for the individual crown by one-tenth of a point. With team-success still in mind, the slim margin has added a layer of motivation for Fossum.

"Team-wise, my goal is to get another state champion. We didn't lose anyone from last year and we gained six really good seventh graders," Fossum said. "For the individual, I can just do the best that I can and hope to beat my score a little bit from last year. If I get on top, that's awesome too. Getting second place by just a tiny bit motivated me a little more. It made me realize how close it can be and how much I need to work harder. I think it's pushed me a little bit, but I always try to give 100 percent when I compete."

The season gets underway on Friday, Dec. 1 at 5 p.m. as the Midgets host the Dickinson High Invitational.

Related Topics: DICKINSON HIGH SCHOOLDICKINSON MIDGETSGYMNASTICS
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