by Eric Oslund
The Elk River gymnastics team headed back to the hometown of head coach Jennifer Bartlett, Princeton, Minn., on Saturday, Jan. 7, to participate in the Clemensen Invitational.
It is Bartlett’s favorite meet of the season because not only does she get to return to her old stomping grounds, but she gets to coach a group of girls in an invitational named after, and paying tribute to, her old coach.
The Elks did not let their head coach down, placing fourth with a score of 131.85.
“They’re finally understanding how to create a routine, so they know when they fall what the execution errors are, so they’re starting to clean that up and really work on keeping all their execution and amplitude,” Bartlett said of her gymnasts. “That category as much as they can since it’s worth 4.5 out of 10, so that is cleanliness and form. They’re really working on that part and it’s going up, and that’s why our score is going up. The tighter you are and the cleaner you are, the less you fall, so that adds more points to it.”
On vault, the Elks highlight of the night came from Haley Donley. She threw her suk for just the second time, scoring an 8.4. It was not the team’s highest score in the event, that belonged to Alyssa George with an 8.5, but if was not for a missed landing, Donley’s score could have been as high as a 9.2.
She is one of the girls that is continuing to improve every time she touches the mat, and the head coach cannot wait to see where the rest of the season, and the rest of her high school career, takes her.
“Another one that keeps coming up the ranks is a little freshman, Haley Donley,” Bartlett began. “She just, every meet, gets better and better. She’s coming off a lower back injury from earlier this season, so she’s coming back strong and moving up the ranks there. Getting some more competition at the varsity level. She threw and 8.65 on floor and told me that last year she never got over a 7.7. So we’re making huge improvements, and she’s willing to work for it and has a great attitude about it.”
Other highlights from the night included Emily Dalrymple scoring an 8.95 on the floor, George tying for sixth on the balance beam with a score of 8.9 and Kaitlyn Dhooge placing fifth on the beam with a 9.
George continues to be one of the Elks senior leaders, and one of their most consistent girls week in and week out. The team participates in a very deep section, but Bartlett knows that she is one of the girls who has a really good shot standing on the podium when it is all said and done.
“We’re hoping to get her a medal in our section,” the head coach said. “Our section has the reigning state champions and is pretty deep, but she has a great opportunity to stand on the podium at the end of the day.”
Bars continues to be the Elks weakest event, and they had a could uncharacteristic falls on the balance beam, as well as one on the floor, but they are a very young team and continuing to improve every day. There is already a clear difference with where the girls are at now, compared to where they were at the beginning of the season, and Bartlett is excited to continue to help the girls improve.
“We had already kind of mapped it out through the whole season of how we wanted to inch our way up,” she began. “The goal is 132, but know they are trying to push it to 133 or 134 because they know they can hit 132. They keep pushing the goal up themselves, which is awesome. We don’t ever want them to get to a goal and be done, we want them to strive for more.”
The Elks now have a week off and do not participate in a meet again until they are at Maple Grove on Thursday, Jan. 19. But the girls will not get much of a break, as Bartlett said they are going to have lots of practices to continue to clean up on the little things that have been causing them issues.