Dave Maras is going to have fun this season.
The Brainerd Warriors head coach enters his 31st season with what might be his most unique collection of athletes.
Brainerd doesn’t return a participant from last year’s state meet, but has state experience in junior Mikayla Cerney. This year’s all-arounder went to state as an eighth-grader and a freshmen. She earned All-Central Lakes Conference honorable mention last year and was voted the team’s most improved athlete.
Cerney and fellow junior Lonie Anderson, who will likely perform in three events, are two key returners.
“Both Lonie and Mikayla are great bar workers,” said Maras. “Lonie had an injury at the end of last year and she’s starting to come back. Mikayla is just about where she was at the end of last year. We look for her to be an all-arounder.”
Senior Jackie Caughey returns as one of the top floor performers, but Maras is expecting bigger and better from her.
“She’s a great leader,” Maras said. “Right now she is ahead of where she was at the end of last year. It’s nice to see them as a senior and just keep getting better.
“Her beam has come a long ways as has her vault. She’s getting pretty solid on all three of her events.”
Eighth-grader Rachel Hoffman leads a swarm of eighth-graders that will mix into the Warriors’ lineup this season. Hoffman was an all-conference performer and owned the team’s highest scoring average on bars last season.
“She’s a year older and she’ll also be an all-arounder,” Maras said. “She picked up where she left off last year and it will be interesting to see where she ends up this year.”
The fun starts after those top returners. Maras said it’s been a while since he’s enjoyed as much depth as this team has. Junior Jenny Muesing has varsity experience on vault and beam. Senior Anna Bieganek performed varsity bars and eighth-grader Jaelyn King did varsity floor.
“This team is a very tight unit,” Maras said. “They really support each other and the team concept. Right now we’re pushing each other individually, but at the same time, they’re excited to help the team get better.
“One thing I’ve see so far, and it’s our biggest strength, is we are a unit. I don’t care what level they’re competing at, we’re going to try to help each other.”
Maras has been impressed by his beam, floor and vault. He said bars takes a while to get into midseason form, but he’s optimistic about this team.
He said team goals will be short term this season.
“There is a process,” he said. “We want to be as good as we can be at the end of the season. We’ll work through the things we need to do to get better.
“We’ve got a pretty wide range of varsity and junior varsity performers. We have 12 new girls this year. We have a couple of eighth-graders who are going to see varsity time. Emmiline Klefsaas could be an all-arounder. Jaelyn King could compete in three events. She competed last year on varsity.
“We have some other younger ones who will push the older girls. Our varsity will be pretty deep with seniors all the way down to eighth grade.”
Seniors: Anna Bieganek, Jacqueline Caughey, Kaylee Hoffman, Morgan Steffen, Sydney Wold, Christine Jorgenson
Juniors: Lonie Anderson, Mikayla Cerney, Rebekah Hoffman, Jenny Muesing, Madison Ross, Abbey Selisker
Sophomores: Kali Bible, Meg Foster, Olivia Klinger, Claire LePage, Brianna Ruiz, Madeline Waters
Freshman: Calihan Yliniemi
Eighth-graders: Greta Buehler, Anna Herath, Rachel Hoffman, Jaelyn King, Emmiline Klefsaas, Marissa Rahn, Caitlin Stark
Seventh-graders: Kianna Christensen, Camille Harmer, Megan Ostendorf, Morgan Visser