The scoreboard at the end of the Brainerd Holiday Tournament displayed a sixth-place finish for the Warriors, but is was a successful day for the program and head coach Dave Maras.
Maras was honored for 45 years of leading the Brainerd gymnastics programs. That includes starting the girls program 42 years ago, and being the head coach since 1982.
On the mat, Rachel Hoffman had two 13th-place finishes. She recorded an 8.75 on the vault, and a 8.70 on the beam.
Rebekah Hoffman posted Brainerd’s highest finish with a seventh-place 8.80 on bars.
Class 1A’s top-ranked Melrose won the meet with a 141.85. Austin finished second with 141.55 team points.
Melrose’s Jailyn Brinkman won the bars and the floor exercise to captured the all-around.
“We had a really good day on the beam, which has been a long time coming,” said Maras. “It was a good day on the vault, too. I think for what we have, we are executing well. The officials did say that we are missing points on some of the difficulties and this is what we need to improve on.”
Alumni from the 1970s to the current decade returned to honor Maras. One of those was Katie Johnson-Thacker who competed for the Warriors in the 90s.
“I was excited to come back and celebrate Mr. Maras,” she said. “He made a huge impact in so many gymnasts lives. It was more then gymnastics. Now that I am coaching a team, the life skills that you take away are so much bigger.”
Johnson-Thacker and Molly Platisha, another Warrior graduate, now coach at Blaine-Andover.
Mark Sikich, coach at Park of Cottage Grove, has been bringing his team to the Brainerd tournament for a number of years.
“The Brainerd Holiday Tournament is one of the premier early tournaments in the season where there are a lot of quality teams and it’s because of Dave,” Sikich said. “His personality and the quality of teams along with great judging. It’s all wrapped into one.”
Across generations of gymnasts and from his peers, the one common theme is the life skills Maras taught.
“He gives the best advice and he is always there for you,” said Brainerd’s junior gymnasit Mikayla Cerney. “He’s kind of like a dad. He’s really respectful and knows what to say when you are down. He’s been through everything.”
For Maras, being through everything includes 16 conference and section titles and 10 section runners-up. He also has coached 52 CLC event champions and 37 section event champions. He also has totaled 38 state competitors and two state champions.
Maras overall record in dual meets is 227-28 which is a winning percentage of .890.
“Every year you look and say this is one of the best groups I have ever had and I continue to say that,” Maras said. “In our community, you start them at a very young age and we follow through.
“Some of the things we teach outside of the skills are important. As adults now they come back and pick our brains, and I think that is one of the reasons why I keep coming back.”
Johnson-Thacker said being punctual, having respect for the sport and cheering on other performers were things she took away from the program.
“He teaches you the skills of how to be a good person at such a crucial time in your life,” said Johnson-Thacker. “It goes a long way and I think I am successful in my life because of skills that he taught us.”
“He has such a huge heart and the girls can relate to that and trust and understand him,” said coach Sikich. “He has been a mentor of mine. He’s been a big influence in my life and I know in many other coaches.”
Team Standings: 1-Melrose 141.85, 2-Austin 141.55, 3-Park of Cottage Grove 139.30, 4-Big Lake 139.05, 5-Lakeville North 138.50, 6-Brainerd 132, 7-Lakeville South 131.40, 8-Moorhead.
Uneven parallel bars: 1-Jailyn Brinkman (Mse) 9.45, 7-Rebekah Hoffman (Brd) 8.80, 31-Camile Harner (Brd) 7.40, 33-Mikayla Cerney (Brd) 7.30, 34-Millie Klefsaas (Brd) 7.25, 36-Kianna Christensen (Brd) 7.20, 36-Anna Bieganek (Brd) 7.20, 45-Morgan Visser (Brd) 6.90, 53-Jenny Muesing (Brd) 6.70.
Balance beam: 1-Megan Lemley (LN) 9.25, 13-Rachel Hoffman (Brd) 8.70, 20-Cerney 8.40, 25-Jackie Caughey (Brd) 8.30, 29-Visser 8.10, 29-Klefsaas 8.10, 32-Sydney Wold (Brd) 8.0, 38-Kaylee Hoffman (Brd) 7.80.
Floor Exercise: 1-Brinkman 9.35, 27-Klefsaas 8.45, 30-Rachel Hoffman 8.40, 31-Jaelyn King (Brd) 8.35, 34-Wold 8.10, 45-Caughey 7.70, 51-Muesing 7.50, 55-Cerney 7.40, 55-Kaylee Hoffman 7.40.
Vault: 1-Sela Fadness (Atn) 9.45, 13-Rachel Hoffman 8.75, 20-Claire LePage (Brd) 8.60, 24-Klefsaas 8.55, 24-Wold 8.55, 29-King 8.50, 37-Cerney 8.40, 48-Muesing 8.10.
All-around: 1-Brinkman 37.10, 18-Klefsaas 32.35, 24-Cerney 31.50, 31-Muesing 30.30.
Next: Brainerd at Fergus Falls 6 p.m. Jan. 3.