by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
There are no other gymnasts in Katie Fleck’s family, but her parents perceived when she was in kindergarten that this would be a good place for her.
“My parents said I was always doing cartwheels and climbing things,” said the Rogers senior. “So they put me in gymnastics.”
Her parents guessed right.
“I can’t imagine my life without gymnastics,” she said.
Fleck, now in her 13th year of gymnastics and third season with Elk River-Rogers-Zimmerman, has emerged as a team leader in a perennially-strong program that’s working on a sixth straight conference title.
Last Saturday, she placed fourth all-around with 35.3 in a formidable nine-team field at the Big Lake Invitational. She was second all-around in a five-team meet at home Dec. 21 with 35.15.
Asked why she stuck with gymnastics, Fleck said that for one thing you always get to do something different.
“Once you accomplish one skill, there is something better to learn,” she said. “It’s never repetitive.”
Then there are the physical and mental benefits.
“You learn to control your body and push your limits. It’s great for flexibility and strength,” said Fleck.
It’s a risky sport, but so far her only mishaps have been breaking her nose (twice) on parallel bars, which happens to be her most difficult event.
Fleck’s personal-bests to date are 35.5 all-around, 9.3 on beam (at Big Lake last Saturday), 9.25 on vault, 9.15 on floor and 8.7 on bars.
Her signature “tricks” are a tuck tsukaraha vault, giant swings on the bars, a full-twist dismount on the beam and a one-and-a-half twist on the floor.
“Katie is a fabulous all-arounder,” said coach Jackie Deiley, “but her best events are vault and beam.”
Fleck’s best physical gift, said the coach, is that she packs some power in her 5-foot-1,106-pound frame.
“Her strength allows her to be good gymnast. She is powerful in her tumbling elements and her vault.”
Fleck started with Minnesota Aerials in Ramsey when she was about five. She works out at Mini Hops Cub in Minnetonka the rest of the year.
Fleck says her top thrill with ERZ so far is helping the Rogers portion of the team place second in Section 8AA her sophomore year. She was 13th all-around that day with 34.325, and improved to seventh all-around at last year’s section with 34.65.
Deiley praises Fleck for her strong dedication both to her team and to her personal development.
“Katie motivation and work ethic reflect very positively her teammates,” said the coach.
Fleck said her senior-year goals are to crack 36 all-around, and keep sharpening skills; she’s working hard on a “release” move from the high to low bar that will help her bars score.
And to keep ERZ’s dual-meet win streak (now at 45) going.
“I think we’ll keep that alive,” she said. “We have a good group.”
Fleck, who enjoys science and plans a career in the health field, hopes to continue in gymnastics next year in college.
THE FLECK SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18 …. Family: parents Randy and Kim; sisters Amanda, 22, and Lizzie, 13 … Sport: gymnastics … Other activities: Royal Connections, tutoring … Academics: 3.6 GP …. College plans: UW-Lacrosse or UW-Eau Claire, science major, gymnastics
Favorite stuff — Class: Chemistry, Biology … TV show: “Law and Order” … Movies: action or suspense movies … Reading: “Hunger Games” series … Food: Italian fare, lasagna, pizza … Drink: water, Gatorade … Teams: Twins, Wild …. Athlete: Gabi Douglas … Music: country, especially Carrie Underwood, Eric Church …. Kickback activities: boating, jet-skiing, at cabin