Gymnastics: Cards believe the future is bright
New head coach Torrie Heitzman takes over a Willmar squad with two seniors
WILLMAR — With a first-year head coach and a roster full of youthfulness, the Cardinals gymnastics team has the future to look forward to as the road ahead shines bright.
Torrie Heitzman enters her first season at the helm at Willmar, replacing former head coach Josie Kent. She attended St. Cloud Tech High School before graduating as a student-athlete from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2019.
Heitzman's coaching staff includes her husband Michael Heitzman, Emily Quitney, Sara Thein and Raelin Brace.
"As a new coaching staff, we're looking for camaraderie and feeling as one, as a team, as a program in general, 'JV' through varsity all the way through our little kids through parks and rec.," Heitzman said. "I think just feeling that gymnastics community is what we're really looking for."
Heitzman's team comes with plenty of youth. Of her 13 gymnasts, 11 will return next season and eight are underclassmen.
Currently, the Cardinals have four all-arounders, which will soon become five, competing in their five-gymnast lineups.
Leading the four all-arounders is senior Kim Joneson. She returns as a veteran leader coming off an MCL tear from the 2021-22 season.
Alongside Joneson are three freshmen who are already competing all-around. The trio includes Mallory Beier, Carlee Brown and Mia Koosman.
"I'm really excited to be with these girls for the next four years. I got to train with them this summer and build relationships with them," Heitzman said. "I'm really excited to be in that coach-athlete partnership because that's what it is — we're going together — and I'm excited to see them all the way through their senior years and just keep getting better."
Lyndi Koosman, a junior veteran, will also be back as the fifth all-arounder in the near future. She suffered a high-ankle sprain earlier this season.
"We're looking to get her back on vault and floor as soon as possible," Heitzman said. "As soon as she feels ready."
As the season progresses, Heitzman and Co. will work with their gymnasts to add more difficulty on their vault and floor routines.
Across the board, Heitzman also wants her team to always be cleaning up their execution on their routines, as execution is worth 4.2 points on every routine.
"That's 4.2 of your score, no matter what," Heitzman said. "Execution and amplitude is half of your score, so how you're doing it is going to be the most important. I'm looking for them to increase their amplitude and execution as the season goes on, gaining that confidence and the experience of competition."
Willmar competes in the Central Lakes Conference, a conference that has seen much success recently at state competition.
Sartell won the Class AA title in 2021 and St. Cloud took third place in Class AA in 2022.
"We have a strong gymnastics community in the 'CLC' and it's one of the strongest in the state. As we go throughout the season, we're going to have tough competitors," Heitzman said. "(And) just continuing to celebrate gymnastics at the high school level because Minnesota has really good high school gymnastics and it's something we should all be proud of."
With a breath of fresh air at the helm, Heitzman will look to her passion and love for gymnastics to find success.
"I think more than just having a coach that's younger who might be relating to them, but a coach that really loves the sport and wants them to get better, so they can feel that same love that I have (for gymnastics)," Heitzman said. "I'm just excited to have that exhaust through the program of just loving gymnastics and seeing the joy come out in them as they grow."