Dave Maras likes what he sees, but he’s more excited about what he’s going to see.
The Brainerd Warriors head gymnastics coach enters his 30th season so he’s seen a lot of gymnastics. What’s peaked his interest this season is a certain buzz in the practice room.
“We look pretty good on all four events right now,” said Maras. “We have some skills that we’re not going to use early because we don’t want to take any chances.
“We just want the kids to hit a solid routine and build on that. By the end of the year, we’ll be a fun team to watch. We have some good stuff now, but it’s going to get better.”
The optimism stems from a work ethic Maras raves about. That and the leadership Brainerd is receiving from its captains, senior Madison Grausam and junior Jacqueline Caughey.
“Maddie qualified for state on the floor two years ago,” said Maras. “She’s an all-arounder and has had a great last couple of weeks. She’s looking good on floor and beam, but her bars have really improved and her vault is ready. She has really adjusted well to the leadership role.
“Jackie is an inspiration to gymnastics. She is an all-arounder, but she is a positive role model for the rest of the kids. Her work ethic and attitude are what makes coaching fun.”
Last season, Grausam placed seventh on vault, 17th on bars, 24th on floor, 33rd on beam for an all-around place of 16th in the Section 8-2A meet.
Caughey finished 24th on vault, 26th on floor and 36th on bars.
The sophomore duo of Mikayla Cerney and Lonie Anderson were key contributors to Brainerd’s third-place finish at last year’s section meet. Cerney advanced to state on the bars with a fourth-place 8.8. She was eighth in the all-around by placing 12th on beam, 17th on vault and 22nd on floor.
Anderson was ninth on bars and 33rd on floor.
“Lonie and Mikayla are both all-arounders and the two of them really came on strong last year,” Maras said. “Both of them set up our bars team with great routines at the end of last season. They’ll represent us in every event. When I talk about them I’m always talking about both at the same time.”
Jenny Muesing placed 22nd on vault in last year’s section meet. Muesing, Abbey Selisker and Meg Foster are early front-runners to fill varsity spots. So is seventh-grader Rachel Hoffman.
“It’s really going to be hard to say,” Maras said. “There are a couple of seventh-graders that are probably going to compete varsity early this year. Rachel and Jaelyn King both have come in and fit in well with the rest of the team. We’ll just see where that goes. It’s a new deal for them. I’m sure they’ll rise to the occasion, but we have a lot of kids that are working hard. Girls like Kali Bible, Anna Bieganek, will be pushing each other. They’ll have some impact on the team down the road.
“We also have a lot of newer kids, about seven or eight that this will be their first year on the team. We’re excited for girls like Brianna Ruiz, Courtney DeChaine, Caitlin Stark, Olivia Klinger, Madison Ross, Morgan Steffen and Lindsey Wagner. Madeline Waters has come a long way this year.
“Throw in our foreign exchange students and I hope everyone has a positive experience.”
A sister trio of Kaylee, Rebekah and Rachel Hoffman is also a new look for Maras. Kaylee is a junior all-arounder. Rebekah, a sophomore, is back out for gymnastics after a year away from the team.
Seniors: Madison Grausam, Kristin Blanch, Johanna Hacker, Luba Wiander
Juniors: Jacqueline Caughey, Anna Bieganek, Kaylee Hoffman, Morgan Steffen
Sophomores: Lonie Anderson, Mikayla Cerney, Rebekah Hoffman, Jenny Muesing, Madison Ross, Abbey Selisker
Freshmen: Kali Bible, Meg Foster, Olivia Klinger, Brianna Ruiz, Lindsey Wagner, Madeline Waters
Seventh-graders: Jaelyn King, Rachel Hoffman, Caitlin Stark
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5856.