Prep Gymnastics: New faces, new goals for Willmar Cardinals
Josei Kent takes over as the sole head coach of a young team full of middle-schoolers.
WILLMAR — New faces in the room is the new normal for the Willmar gymnastics team.
After serving as co-head coach with Doug Rossum last winter, Josie Kent is at the helm for the Willmar gymnasts, which have competed in three meets this season, including a 140.350-130.175 loss to the St. Cloud Crush on Thursday at Willmar High School.
“It’s been great so far,” Kent said. “The head coaches from before passed on a lot of great information and a great set-up for the team. And we have Raelin (Brace) and Emily (Quitney) as assistant coaches, too, and they’ve done a great job and are supportive of the girls and myself.”
Along with the change up top, the Cardinals also have a youth movement with 10 middle-schoolers on the roster.
“It’s definitely different, our team is very young,” Kent saidz “Almost half of our team is middle schoolers but they’re doing a great job. We had a lot of nerves in the first meet but they’re starting to get the hang of it. We had those three back-to-back (meets) and they all do a great job.”
Last season, the Cardinals finished second in Section 6A with a score of 140.475, finishing behind New London-Spicer’s 142.000. This season, the expectations have changed as Willmar hopes to build up its athletes.
“We’ve changed our goals from getting this far to are we having fun,” said junior Kim Joneson, who was the Cardinals’ top performer on Thursday, placing third in the all-around at 34.125.
“Our team is trying to get closer instead of just going out and doing really good and expecting high scores.”
Joneson, along with sophomore Lyndi Koosman, are the Cardinals’ top returners. Joneson competed in the balance beam and uneven bars at state last year, placing 35th and 36th, respectively. Koosman made state in the all-around, placing 18th. Her top finish came in the floor exercise, placing 24th.
The Cardinals have four seniors on this year’s team: Ava Brogren, Elizabeth Eide, Payton Freiberg and Allison Mattson.
Helping the youngest performers to get up to speed has been a collective effort so far.
“(Eighth-graders) Mallory (Beier), Carlee (Brown) and Mia (Koosman) have competed a lot before, so that’s good. They have experience as middle schoolers,” Kent said. “And we have some high schoolers like Payton, Kylie (Porttiin) and Sophia (Smith) and they all do a great job.”
Kent is also getting up to speed as the sole head coach of the squad.
“A lot of pressure has been put on her specifically because she was co-head coach for a year, so we expect her to get everything right,” Joneson said. “She doesn’t always, but that’s all right; we’re pretty forgiving with her.”
Kent added, “It’s a fun dynamic in the gym, lots of energy going around, so that’s good.”
Following Thursday’s meet, the Cardinals are off until Thursday, Dec. 23 when they host Brainerd for a Central Lakes Conference dual.
In that time, the goal is to work on enhancing the girls’ routines and continue to build for a strong 2022.
“We really want to work on upgrading the skills we already have, adding a twist, adding maybe more difficult skills in the routine and focusing on that composition and fine-tuning,” Kent said. “They kind of go hand-in-hand.
“These two weeks are nice because we can focus on skill work and then eventually, add those skills.”