by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Kaylee Jondahl had a spectacular start at the state gymnastics meet Saturday evening, executing a difficult, soaring vault to near perfection, twice, in the first rotation.
Her vault score would hold up for the gold medal, and the Elk River senior went on to grab a silver medal in floor exercise and a bronze in uneven bars, then another bronze for third-place all-around, at the U of M Sports Pavillion.
“I am happy with how I did. Beam was a little rough, but that happens,” reflected Jondahl. “I was very happy with my vault. That was as good as I have done it. My best of the year …. I just had to stay focused. I have done it before and know what I need to do.”
A fall on the balance beam, her only blemish of the meet, took her out of all-around contention, and she finished behind two sophomores, Bailey DuPay of Northfied and Isis Miller of Roseville Area.
Her 37.925 all-around earned bronze behind Dupay (38.875) and Miller (37.950). Also on the all-around medal stand were Faribault senior Erin Olson (37.775), Park senior Kosondra Tullach (37.75) and Northfield sophomore Christy Anderson (37.700).
Jondahl won vault with 9.8125 for her layout tsukahara, with Dupay second (9.6875). She was runner-up on floor exercise with 9.700, trailing Dupay (9.900), and third on uneven bars with 9.700 behind Roseville junior Carly Wagner (9.800) and DuPay (9.725).
On balance beam, Jondahl made her back flip, albeit with a wobble on the landing, then fell on the simpler roundoff move, and placed 22nd with 8.700. DuPay won with 9.550. That was her third event. She came back strong in floor ex.
“I am glad that I didn’t let my beam affect my floor, which I could have done, because I was upset. But there was nothing I could do about it so I shook it off.”
Elk coach Jackie Deiley was elated at Jondahl’s medal haul.
“Her vault was outstanding, probably one of the best I have seen her do. Her bars were also solid. On beam, she fell on her roundoff. That happens. Floor was also a great routine for Kaylee, just a couple of bobbles here and there. I am very proud of her. She did great today. She had a very exciting year.”
The 5-foot-5 Jondahl inspires gasps of admiration from the crowd for the awesome height she gets on her vault and her double back somersault on floor, and again with her “Laumen” move on bars, a little flip when releasing from the low bar to the high bar.
The “Laumen” looks risky and difficult but she never missed it all year.
“Quite a few people ask me about that skill, what it is, and how I learned it,” said Jondahl, who picked it with Jam Hops club in eighth grade and was using it in her ninth grade season with the Elks. “I am the only person in the state who does it, in the high school (competition) anyway.”
Jondahl expressed admiration for DuPay with her three gold medals.
“She was absolutely amazing. I don’t even have the words. Her floor looked flawless.”
Jondahl is the third Elk to capture a state championship, after Cherise Shrupp (all-around, vault twice, bars and beam in 1991-94) and Jena Jondahl, Kaylee’s sister (floor and bars in 2010). Sabirina Hoover, three-time all-around champion for Rogers in 2008-10, was also an Elk River-Rogers-Zimmmerman team member during the regular season.
A gymnast for 13 years, Jondahl spent two with the Elks. In ninth grade she earned state silver medals in vault and floor and placed fourth all-around. After two years with the Gleason’s club, she elected to return to her high school team.
“I am very happy I came out for the Elks —happy with how I did this year, and being able to represent Elk River.”