Results-wise, last year was a learning year for the Brainerd Warriors.
The struggles of last season should pay off nicely this season, however. Seven girls who competed in the Section 8-2A meet return, including Mikayla Cerney, who owns state meet experience.
Brainerd placed fourth in last year’s section meet with 137.025 points. The Warriors were fifth in the Central Lakes Conference championship meet and owned 5-3 overall and 4-3 conference dual meet records.
Despite improving competition from conference foes, Warriors coach Dave Maras expects even better scores from his roster this season.
“It’s always nice to have that experience in the kids, especially when it comes to crunch time because they understand a little bit more of what it takes,” said the coach, who’s entering his 32nd season. “They know that section meet is the season. It comes down to the end. Experience will definitely help, but people that haven’t been varsity performers will have to compete in big meets this year. That in itself will develop into experience.
“We do compete at the Lakeville Invite, our invite and the Park Invite are all big. By section time they’ll hopefully be seasoned enough. It takes a team to do well, not just a bunch of individuals. As a team, we’ll be solid.”
Cerney is Brainerd’s top returning all-arounder as she placed 12th in the section meet. She was 12th on vault, eighth on floor and ninth on the bars. She was named the team’s most valuable performer last season.
“Mikayla had a great summer and fall,” said Maras. “She really has come a long way. She had a great summer and went to St. Cloud this fall. She’s as strong as I’ve ever seen her. She’ll be impressive this year. Last year, she was so close to making it back to state, but I think she’s kicked things up a notch.”
Returning from the section meet on bars will be Millie Klefsaas, Lonie Anderson and Cami Harmer. Klefsaas finished 14th, Anderson, who competed in Class 2A state diving competition, finished 18th and Harmer 32nd.
Jenny Muesing is Brainerd’s top returner on beam. She placed 21st.
“Jenny has always been a go-to-gal, particularly on beam,” said Maras. “We’re getting great leadership from her and Abby Selisker. Lonie is battling an ankle injury, but she’ll be back and in full strength on the bars. She’ll be moving into some other events this season, too.”
Klefsaas, who was voted the team’s most improved gymnast, also placed 34th on floor. On vault, Jaelyn King finished 14th and Kianna Christensen was 21st.
Christensen and Klefsaas both secured scores of 9.0 or better along with Cerney last season.
“Millie is an all-arounder and she has improved tremendously over the course of the summer,” Maras said. “We have a pretty solid core of girls. The addition of Beth (Etterman) is great for the team and great for Brainerd because she’s a great athlete. She is a fun addition to our team and we’re looking forward to her helping us.”
Etterman, who has competed in three state diving meets for the Warriors’ swimming and diving team, will compete in her first season of high school gymnastics. She competed in club gymnastics until this season.
Brainerd will host the conference championship this season and Maras is expecting some high scores, which is what he saw last year.
“More conference teams scored over 140 points last year than we’ve had in the history of our sport,” said Maras. “We had four or five teams go over 140. That’s going to make for a very good conference.
“Alexandria has improved tremendously. They had a state champion last year and she’s back. (St. Cloud) Tech is always good. We’ve gone toe-to-toe with them for many years. Willmar always has some great athletes. Sartell, from what I hear, is going to be good this year, too. So every conference meet is going to be good.”
Seniors: Lonie Anderson, Mikayla Cerney, Rebekah Hoffman, Jenny Muesing, Madison Ross, Abby Selisker, Beth Etterman
Juniors: Meg Foster
Sophomores: Macey Kramer
Freshmen: Greta Buehler, Anna Herath, Jaelyn King, Emmiline Klefsaas, Marissa Rahn, Caitlin Stark, Jaelyn Kappes, Abby Senica.
Eighth-graders: Kianna Christensen, Camille Harmer, Megan Ostendorf, Morgan Visser, Alexis Cheek, Hannah Dalhberg, Sig Devine, Molly Selisker
Seventh-graders: Jocelyn Polansky, Lexie Bible, Kayla Deason, Abby Doran
Dec. 5 vs. St. Cloud Apollo 7 p.m.
Dec. 10 vs. Fergus Falls 7 p.m.
Dec. 12 at Sauk Rapids 7 p.m.
Dec. 19 vs Alexandria 7 p.m.
Dec. 21 hosts Brainerd Invitational 11 a.m.
Jan. 9 at Willmar 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 at Lakeville North Invitational 8:30 a.m.
Jan. 18 at Park Invitational 11 a.m.
Jan. 23 vs. Sartell 7 p.m.
Jan. 28 vs. Little Falls 7 p.m.
Jan. 31 at St. Cloud Tech 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 Central Lakes Conference championship at Brainerd 1 p.m.