An ankle injury has tested Katie Perpich's resolve this gymnastics season.
In July, the Brainerd High School junior fell from the uneven parallel bars during a workout and rolled an ankle. She spent time on crutches and in a walking cast and couldn't work out for about six weeks.
"I usually practice a lot in the summer and fall to get ready for the season," Perpich said. "I didn't get to learn as many new tricks as I wanted."
Seven months later it's clear the ankle has sufficiently healed. Perpich had a career day at the Central Lakes Conference meet last weekend, winning the balance beam, finishing second on vault and earning runner-up honors in all-around, a combination of scores from the four events.
A fourth-place finish on floor exercise and 10th-place finish on uneven bars earned Perpich all-conference distinction in all four events and all-around.
"Katie started out the season pretty tentative," Warriors coach Dave Maras said. "(The ankle) was still bothering her. As the season went on she kept getting stronger. To finish the season being all-conference in all five events is a pretty impressive feat.
"Quite frankly, a year ago Katie will admit she was a little shaky up there (on beam). Her odds of winning the conference meet on beam were not real good, but she kept getting more confident."
Perpich demonstrated her confidence on beam, scoring 9.375 to lead the competition.
Katie Perpich profile
Sport -- Gymnastics
Events -- All-around
Year -- Junior
Age -- 16
Height -- 5-foot-2
Other sports -- Track and field
Grade-point average -- 3.9
Memorable sports achievement -- Scoring 9.45 on balance beam this season
School activities -- Band
Favorite subject -- Chemistry
Favorite food -- Baked potatoes
Favorite TV show -- "ER"
Future plans -- Attend college, major in pre-med
Athlete she admires -- Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller
Parents -- Tom and Cindy Perpich
"I have no idea how I did that," she said. "I was so surprised. I got up there, and I wobbled at first. After that I got it together."
On vault, Perpich scored 9.5 to finish behind champion Beth Zimmer of Willmar.
"I've been working on opening up, to an open pike from a closed pike," Perpich said. "I tried that technique at the conference meet and it seemed to work."
In the all-around, Perpich scored 36.8 points, losing by .075 to champion Meghan Jacobs of St. Cloud Tech.
"I was really surprised," Perpich said. "I fell on my dismount on bars, so I didn't think I would be up there."
Maras said Perpich has developed poise as a performer, enabling her to become an elite gymnast in her fourth varsity season.
"Katie wants so badly to improve," he said. "She has a great appetite to go after tricks and try something new. She always wants to get better. She spends a lot of time in the gym. She comes to work, she comes in warmed up and ready to go.
"Katie demands a lot of herself, plus the fact she's got good strength. She listens well, she's great to coach, and does exactly what you tell her. If something doesn't work she's willing to change. She's that kind of kid."
Other notable efforts:
Ty Hunt, boys Nordic skiing, won the conference freestyle race.
Anna Mangan and Christina Roberts, girls Nordic skiing, won the conference freestyle and classic races.
Shaun Kennedy, diving, set school and pool records for six dives vs. Willmar.
Morgan Shepherd and Gregg Day, boys hockey, had hat tricks vs. River Lakes.
Nick Whichello, boys hockey, made 40 saves vs. Cloquet.
Kathleen Lorenz, gymnastics, was all-conference in two events and all-around.
Jake Phillips, boys basketball, had 27 points vs. Little Falls.
Mandy Hanson, girls hockey, had 47 saves vs. Moorhead.
Chris Jordan, floor hockey, had a hat trick vs. Dakota United.
Mark Femling, Alpine skiing, finished sixth in the section meet and qualified for state.
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