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Willmar notebook: Card gymnasts make leap forward

Since 1993 when St. Cloud Apollo won the gymnastics team championship, three different schools have dominated the Central Lakes Conference hardware. Those programs are Brainerd, St. Cloud Tech and Willmar. Willmar and Brainerd each have won four ...

Morgan Hamstad
Willmar senior Morgan Hamstad grabs the high bar during the Cardinals’ meet against Litchfield on Tuesday in Willmar. TRIBUNE / Rand Middleton

Since 1993 when St. Cloud Apollo won the gymnastics team championship, three different schools have dominated the Central Lakes Conference hardware.
Those programs are Brainerd, St. Cloud Tech and Willmar.
Willmar and Brainerd each have won four titles outright and twice shared the top spot. The Tech Tigers, invincible for 10 straight years, have occupied the top rung since 2005.
Willmar ended Tech’s decade-long unbeaten streak in CLC dual meets 139.45-139.1 on Dec. 4 in Willmar. The Tigers scored 145.1 the next time out so it appears they are not far off matching their usual high standards.
The Cardinals fell into rebuilding mode five years ago with a 1-7 record followed by 1-6 the next year, and then followed 3-4 and last year 4-3 in CLC duals.
The squad has a showdown tonight at the Kennedy gym against Sartell, whose high scores match Willmar’s best this month. Co-head coaches Jodi Mottinger and Doug Rossum will benefit if Alexis Miley (illness) and Stephanie Thompson (injury) are able to return to the lineup. Haley Mottinger, the coach’s daughter, is also fighting off the flu. She had a tough meet Tuesday, on vault and the beam, but somehow finished with an electric floor routine that drew a 9.3.
“When we get healthy and have a full lineup, our expectation is that this team can go 145, or higher, consistently,” Jodi Mottinger said. “We hit 143 at Becker and that was with some falls in only our third meet. Looking back, we did not hit 143 until our seventh meet last winter.
“Our biggest issue, right now, is getting healthy and getting our full lineup competing. We have four competing all-around - Thompson, Mottinger, Kendall Hein and Miley. Morgan Hamstad competes on vault and bars and Bronwyn Tollefson goes on beam and floor.”
Individually, she said, Stephanie and Haley have scored 35-plus all-around and each have gone over the 36 mark already. Kendall and Alexis are both 34-plus average right now.
“When you take one or two of them out of the lineup, it gets hard to make up those points. But our youngsters that filled in Tuesday did a fine job; it was fun to see them get a chance to compete at the varsity level.”
Not only would the Cardinals like to vault past the Tigers in the final CLC standings, they have mighty Melrose in their section sights.
“All the girls, JV and varsity both, really worked hard in the off-season to improve their skills and add new difficulty,” said coach Mottinger. “They were not satisfied with being the section runner up last season!”

Related Topics: GYMNASTICS
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