Gymnastics: ‘Different dynamic’ as Elks top Maple Grove in home opener

Katie Fleck, one of the Elk rookies, performs on floor exercise. (Photo by Bruce Strand)


by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Leah Perrault suddenly finds herself as head honcho on the Elk River-Rogers-Zimmerman gymnastics team,.

After several all-staters from the past two years graduated or went back to club, Perrault was meet high scorer as the Elks won their home and dual meet opener 133.6 to 122 .425 over Maple Grove on Friday evening.

“That’s good, I like to be a leader, but the other girls are right behind me, and they’re good, too,” said the senior who’s gone to state twice both team and individually with Rogers.

Maple Grove coach Shannon Hoover, former Elk assistant, hugged Leah Perrault while the Elk leader was getting her ankle taped. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

The Elks stretched their dual meet win streak to 24. Perrault said the team is well aware of that streak and knows victories won’t be automatic like the last couple years.

“We can come together to be a really good team,” she said. “I think we can hit a 138 this year.”

The Elks were in the 140’s last year and topped 150 a couple times the year before.

Perrault had an all-around score of 33.9 that included a fall on beam and a stop on bars. Alana Embury was next with 32.475 followed by Maple Grove’s Maren Aase with 32.125.

Perrault won vault with 9.075, bars with 8.225, and floor with 8.9, while Alyssa Walton won beam with 8.35.

“It’s really a different dynamic this year,” said coach Jenn Bartlett. “The last couple years,  we’ve had very dominating personalities and scores in the gym, and this year the door is wide open. I don’t think the girls are sure who should step up and lead. They all want to be varsity but they are just happy to be around.”

Bartlett said  “first home meet jitters” were definitely evident but the kids did some good things, too, such as flips on vault which they didn’t do last Saturday in the Perham Invitational. Examples were Embury doing her first tsukara vault to place second with 9.05 behind Perrault, who did a tuck, and Kendra Hambelton doing her first handspring full twist for an 8.625 a PB in her varsity debut in that event. She praised Perrault for “amazing presence” on the floor.

The Elks will have another home meet Tuesday, against Blaine and Anoka.


Maple Grove coach familiar

The new Maple Grove coach was greeted like an old friend, which she is.

Alana Embury was airborne during her floor ex. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

“It was really good to see her,” said Perrault about Shannon Hoover, who was Bartlett’s assistant the last three years.

“I didn’t plan on doing this, but an opportunity, an opening, came up, and I took it,” said Hoover, who coached with the Elks during her daughter Sabrina’s three-year reign as a state all-around champion.

It was a kick to have her first conference match with the Crimson at Elk River.

“I was excited to see the girls and how much they’ve learned over the summer,” said Hoover. “I was impressed.”

She said it’s very much a building year for Maple Grove after six girls graduated who’d carried the team for three or four years. Among her charges are a student from Sweden and another from France, both trying gymnastics for the first time.

“I am loving it,” she said. “I have a nice group of girls and a nice group of parents.”

Elk scores

All-around – Leah Perrault 33.9, Alana Embury 32.475

Vault – Perrault 9.075, Embury 9.05, Kendra Hambelton 8.6, Jessica Sadlowsky 8.2

Uneven bars – Perrault 8.225, Alyssa Walton 8.2, Katie Fleck 8.15, Embury 7.4

Balance beam – Walton 8.35, Perrault 8.25,  Embury 7.7, Krista Kovar 7.7

Floor exercise – Perrault 8.9, Embury 8.775, Hambelton 8.625, Walton 8.325