Sticking with gymnastics

DICKINSON - Jennifer Bachamp and Lexi Stickel have been involved in gymnastics since they were preschoolers. As others their age gradually drifted away from the difficult sport, Bachamp and Stickel stuck with it.

DICKINSON - Jennifer Bachamp and Lexi Stickel have been involved in gymnastics since they were preschoolers. As others their age gradually drifted away from the difficult sport, Bachamp and Stickel stuck with it.

The determination is paying off for the Dickinson gymnasts.

Today, the 17-year-old high school seniors are two of the

leading gymnasts on one the top-ranked team in North Dakota.

"Neither of those two girls were top gymnasts when they were


seventh- and eighth-graders," Dickinson coach Kent Van Ells

said. "... It's worked out for them."

However, it took a while for things to get peachy for the senior

duo and their teammates.

"It's a long time with the ups and downs and everything else

that goes along with it," Van Ells said. "They've been through

some really difficult times."

As freshman in 2005, Bachamp and Stickel watched from the stands


during the team competition at the state gymnastics meet after

the Midgets failed to qualify for the first time since 1976.

"It was kind of hard to sit (in the stands) at the state meet.

We were the team that had to sit and watch," Stickel said. "... It

was a big shock to us and our coaches."

What wasn't a shock is how the duo and their team developed over

the next three years.

As sophomores, Bachamp and Stickel helped Dickinson finish third


in the West Region and fourth at state.

As juniors, they played major roles in securing a West Region

title and the Midgets' first state championship since 1988.

On Saturday, Bachamp and Stickel are hoping to repeat last

season's success during the West Region meet at Dickinson High

School. The meet is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

Like true veterans, Bachamp and Stickel are in agreement as to

what the Midgets need to do in order to repeat as West Region



"Stick everything," Stickel said. "We'll be OK. As long as

everyone hits their routines, I think we'll come out top again."

Said Bachamp: "If everyone just steps up and sticks a landing,

that'll be less points taken off."

Van Ells said the duo leads by example.

And why not? There isn't a senior in the state averaging better

scores in the all-around competition than Bachamp and Stickel.


Stickel's all-around average is fourth in the state at 36.025.

Bachamp is sixth at 35.775.

While they have the top two scores for seniors, they fall behind

Minot freshman Brooklyn Bender - the state's leader with a

36.408 average - and Dickinson freshmen Kelsey Dukart and Brogan


Bachamp currently has the best floor exercise average in the

state at 9.533. She also has the best floor score of any


Dickinson gymnast this decade and one of the top scorers in team


"She's been doing those kinds of scores quite regularly and it's

because of the amount of difficult tumbling," Van Ells said.

Stickel meanwhile, has the state's best balance beam average.

With a 9.275, she holds a slight lead over teammates Melissa

Bachamp - Jennifer's younger sister - and Burwick, who each have

averages of 9.258.

Still, in a sport that traditionally sees underclassmen stand

out above seniors, Van Ells believes what Bachamp and Stickel

have been able to do this season is impressive.

"They have shown, as have seniors before them, that you can have

your best year as a senior," Van Ells said. "In gymnastics,

that's not something you think of because we've always had

young, good gymnasts."

Ironically, the duo also shares an affinity for the vault and is

averse to the uneven parallel bars.

Although she has the state's best vault score this season with a

9.550, Bachamp is third in the average at 9.383. Right behind

her in a tie for fourth are Stickel and Burwick, who each have

9.292 averages.

Earlier this season, Bachamp became the first Dickinson gymnast

to attempt the difficult Yurchenko vault. However, she switched

back to the higher-scoring Sukahara vault and hasn't looked


"I wasn't happy with what the scores had been and I wasn't

getting enough power either," Bachamp said. "I'm used to a lot

of power and flipping higher with my Suk and it wasn't working

as much."

But, with as much as Bachamp and Stickel been through in their gymnastics careers, and even though they still have two of the biggest meets of their careers left, Stickel said she'll be ready to move on after the season is over.

"I'm definitely glad I stuck with it this long, but after this season I'll be ready to be done," Stickel said. "I feel my body is ready to be done with it."

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