Archive for Kip Kovar

Family roots run deep for Delano area brothers getting set to open a new brewery

Family has always been among the most important things for Delano area brothers Zac and Jake Gleason.

As they prepare to open their own brewery together, it’s no surprise that the two have incorporated their family ties into Hackamore Brewing Company in Chanhassen as they are set to open their doors for the first time Friday, April 28.

“The vision of this whole brewery is nested in our family’s roots,” Zac said. “We’re excited to have people come in and pour them some beers. I want this to become a destination and spot that craft beer connoisseurs come running to. We are very close, and it’s a crazy feeling.”

Just one look at the name of the brewery, and you’ll find the first touch of family in the name. Hackamore Brewing Company is named after the street where the Gleason’s grandparents lived in Corcoran.

“It’s based on the name of the street for our grandparents’ home,” Zac said. “We spent the majority of our life growing up in that home. Hackamore is a hub for us but for our whole family too. A lot of this is a tribute to our upbringing.”

Hackamore Brewing Company has been in the works for the past two years, but the idea of opening a brewery dates back even longer. What started as homebrewing in a garage 10 years ago for the Gleason brothers, along with their cousin Nick Flies has now turned a dream into a reality as they’re set to open their doors to their own brewery.

“We used to homebrew together for years,” Zac said. “We homebrewed a lot. This was something we always dreamed about together.”

The beginning stage

The first step to making Hackamore Brewing Company a reality and not just an idea was a big one. In September 2021, Zac quit his corporate job and took a leap of faith into the idea of opening his own brewery. After leaving his job, the first call Zac made was to his brother Jake, someone he wanted to make sure was part of this journey.

“I quit my job and put my head down with a dream to start a business, and this brewery is that business,” he said. “I met with Jake and told him that I wanted to start a brewery. This is what I want my legacy to end up being. I didn’t want to work for a company making someone else all the money. I got in a position where I wanted to put my head down and do this. I’m not sure he took me completely seriously. We met again later, and I told him I was actually doing this. I told him I want you to be part of it, and I want to do this together. It’s kind of a dream of ours together to own a brewery.”

With the plan in motion, it was time to get to work. The journey from having an idea to opening their doors has been challenging for the Gleason brothers. Still, they already know how rewarding the process has been as they are starting to see their hard way pay off as opening day approaches.

“It’s been one of the hardest processes I’ve ever done,” Zac said. “There have been major hurdles throughout it all. We originally thought we were going to end up in Edina. It fell through, though, and it ended up being a blessing in disguise. This place turned out to be everything we could have hoped for. It has everything we wanted when it came to our checklist. Each of the phases was a whole new set of challenges. There are absolutely ups and downs. In the end, it’s been extremely rewarding. You sit here by yourself sometimes and just take all this, and it doesn’t feel real. This is what we want our legacy to be.”

“It’s a surreal feeling because during the process, there have been so many ups and downs,” Jake added. “The timeline of things was way longer than any of us anticipated it to be. The fact that we’re finally going to be able to open our doors is an extremely blessed feeling. We’ve been telling people we’re opening a brewery for two years now. To be able to deliver on that now is a really fun feeling. There’s this surreal feeling that we’re actually opening a brewery, and it’s awesome. We talked about this in our garage 10 years ago, and now we’re going to do it.”

Finding the right team

While craft beer has always been something the Gleason brothers have enjoyed and worked on, they knew it was important to surround themselves with experienced and talented brewers when they decided to open their own brewery.

One call to their cousin Nick Flies was all that was needed to get him to join the team. Flies brings experience to the Hackamore Brewing Company team as the head brewer after making stops at Enki, Waconia Brewing Company, Lynn Lake Brewing, and Pantown Brewing. Hackamore Brewing Company also brought on Tom Schufman as a technical brewer with experience at Waconia Brewing Company, Fulton, and Summit.

“We homebrewed a lot together, and Nick kind of took it to a whole new level by starting to work at real breweries,” Zac said. “When we started Hackamore, we always knew Nick was the guy for this. This is something we’ve always dreamed of together, and he hopped right over. When Tom was the head brewer at Waconia, Nick was his assistant, so we kind of brought the band back together. We’re all friends, and the culture is fun. Coming up with fun beer names and making that beer list together has been a lot of fun.”

Both Flies and Schufman come to Hackamore Brewing Company heavily decorated. Between the two, they have received more than 10 awards for their work and are looking to make their impact once again with a new chapter. The last two stouts in the world that were awarded gold medals have been their beers.

“They make great beer together,” Jake said. “They’ve done all sorts of festivals and competitions. We’re pretty excited that the first beers we made came out like they did. We’re proud to serve what we’re going to right out of the gates. Our brewers are dialed in, and we’re really happy with the crew we have here.”

Family means everything

The family roots for the Gleason brothers go beyond just the brewery’s name. Pieces of family ties are sprinkled throughout the brewery, but most noticeable will be the names of their flagship beers.

“All of our flagship beers have a meaning,” Zac said. “Our #14 lager is one we really want to stand out. That’s the only one people will see that will stand out because I want people to know the story. That one is going to be the tribute to our grandpa, and everyone will get to hear his story. He’s no longer with us, but he’s the heart and soul of Hackamore.”

The #14 lager will stand out to patrons as it’s the only tap at the bar that doesn’t look the same. The tap handle for the special beer features a cardinal and a baseball to pay homage to their grandpa and the sport he instilled a love for.

“On the tap for #14 at Hackamore Brewing lies a baseball and a cardinal in honor of our grandpa,” Zac said. “A cardinal is the universal sign for a loved one looking over your shoulder. When a cardinal flies near you, that’s a sign a loved one is coming to check on you. For the baseball, #14 was his number and was for so much of our family. Our grandpa was the reason our entire family has a passion for baseball.”

The #14 lager is not only a special beer because of the name but also because of the type of beer it is.
“It’s a light lager,” Zac said. “He would only drink the lightest and crappiest beer he could find at the liquor store. We knew we had to brew a light lager in his honor.”

The other flagship beers at Hackamore Brewing Company also hold special meaning. The Potbelly Oatmeal Stout is in honor of the potbelly pigs the Gleason brothers used to raise with their grandparents. The Can Crusher Cream Ale represents their grandpa’s love and admiration for collecting aluminum cans for profit, while Grandma’s Kitchen Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Sour brings back memories of all the snacks and treats the Gleason brothers enjoyed while spending time at grandma’s house.

Inside the brewing area, the floor is also painted red as that was their grandpa’s favorite color making them feel like he is part of the brewing process.

Introducing new technology

Efficiency and sustainability are two pillars that Hackamore Brewing Company will live on. That’s why they will be the first brewery in Minnesota to package and serve beers in First Element kegs. The innovative kegs eliminate cleaning, which saves water, reduces the amount of loss on the changeover, and are lightweight and can be served vertically or horizontally.

“It’s a modern new idea in the evolution of kegs,” Zac said. “They put in eight or nine years of research and design before bringing their product to the market. They’re amazing because of their size and the ability to maneuver. They can be served vertically or horizontally, which is a huge plus. By design, we created our entire flow of this brewery for efficiency.”

“A standard keg is made of stainless steel, and they’re heavy,” Jake added. “They use a lot of water to clean as well. Not one drop of water ever has to clean those kegs. The keg itself is made from recyclable materials, and there’s a bladder inside the keg that is also recyclable.”

A big plus of the new kegs will be the ability to make sure they are getting the full amount of beer out of each keg. A standard keg loses two or three pints on average when being changed over, a problem that the new kegs will fix.

“With a traditional keg, you’re left with a waste amount at the bottom that you can’t really serve,” Zac said. “These kegs suck completely clean, almost like a Capri Sun would. That’s what this does under pressure, so you’re left with zero waste. Our entire strategy, from keg to cooler to tap handle to glass, is 100 percent efficient. We put a lot of thought into this.

The place to be

Among just opening a brewery, the Gleason brothers have spent a lot of time going over things other than just beer. Digging into their property management backgrounds, they knew their brewery would need to offer new and exciting amenities. Part of the brewery will feature a golf simulator, the only brewery in Minnesota to have one. They also have a bar area and a more traditional beer hall that can be used for live music and other events.

“I live in the area, and I recognized there’s not a lot to do at times,” Zac said. “There’s a lot of corporate type restaurants, and I think people are really looking for more of a scratch-made experience and not so cookie cutter to do. We basically created this whole idea of giving the community something to do. We took our experience from property management, and it was always about coming up with more and more amenities. We really wanted to build a brewery with amenities in it. We wanted to load this place up with fun stuff to do where it’s not just a place where you’re going to sit down and drink a beer and wonder what to do next.”

Hackamore Brewing Company is set to open Friday, April 28, beginning at noon. The brewery is located in Chanhassen, just off Highway 5 and Dell Road. You can follow Hackamore Brewing Company on all social media channels to stay updated on news and event announcements.

“Everyone around here and in this community is excited about coming here,” Zac said. “It’s awesome to hear other communities support us as well. It’s just been overwhelming.”

SECTION 2A BOYS BASKETBALL: Dominant second half leads Bulldogs past BOLD

ARLINGTON – There are two seniors on the roster for the Lester Prairie boys basketball team this season. They both chose the right time to have one of their best games of the season as Gavin Eckstein and Tanner Scheevel helped lead the Bulldogs to an impressive 66-55 win over the BOLD Warriors Thursday night thanks to a dominant second-half performance.

“Credit to Tanner playing through his injury and Gavin was super aggressive getting to the rim and getting rebounds,” Lester Prairie coach Andrew Dahl said. “They weren’t ready to be done with their season. They really brought a little extra for us tonight on the court and in the locker room. It was fun to have them leading us and see the other guys follow their lead.”

The Bulldogs struggled at times in the first half but as much as BOLD was in control, Lester Prairie trailed by just five at the half. The Warriors scored the first five of the second half to push their lead to 10 but the Bulldogs answered immediately with an 8-0 run themselves to get back within two thanks to 3-pointers from Tanner Scheevel and Trever Schauer.

“We got some good guys that if we need to make a play, they can go and get one for us,” Dahl said. “I feel like we kind of have the mindset now that we can handle some adversity where earlier in the year we would kind of panic a bit. Now I think we have some mental toughness to withstand a run and make a run of our own.”

Lester Prairie turned up the pressure with their defense in the second half throughout. They held the Warriors to just 20 points in the second half including a six-minute stretch without a field goal.

“We tried some zone defense and we’re not really a zone team. We just tried mixing things up to take away their ball screens and dump-ins. Our man-to-man in the second half really got us some energy with some tips and steals and that got us rolling. We hit some shots and that got us really going.”

A three-point play by Alex Hodny tied the game at 41 for the Bulldogs. Schauer gave the Bulldogs the lead with a three-point play of his own and Lester Prairie led 54-50 with just under seven minutes to go,

“A lot of big performances from a lot of guys,” Dahl said. “I thought everybody really made some good plays for us. It was a good team effort by a lot of different guys tonight which is fun to see.”

The Bulldogs would seal the game holding the Warriors to just five points in the final seven minutes of the game to keep their season alive.

With the win, Lester Prairie advances to the Section 2A North Championship game where they will take on No. 4 Cedar Mountain. The Cougars knocked off top-seeded Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s in the other semifinal game. The Bulldogs defeated Cedar Mountain 77-60 earlier this season but Dahl knows how much a team can change throughout the season.

“They shoot the ball well and run the floor,” he said. “We did see them early in the year but it seems like they’ve improved their game since we saw them. It should be a fun matchup.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

SECTION 5AA BOYS BASKETBALL: Royals take care of upset-minded HLWW

WATERTOWN – Just a couple of years ago Watertown-Mayer boys basketball coach Kent Janikula was showing his team highlights from the NCAA Tournament of No. 12 seeds upsetting No. 5 seeds. This year was a different story as the Royals came in as the higher seed and took care of business with a 73-49 win over the Lakers Wednesday night.

“It’s a little different now when it comes to motivation,” Janikula said with a laugh. “That’s our section though with them being a No. 12 seed. It’s both good and bad to have familiarity with an opponent in the playoffs but we knew what to expect. We took a punch from them early but I thought we executed the rest of the way and that changed everything in terms of momentum.”

HLWW had the feeling of an upset on their minds coming in and looked the part early on. Thanks to some hot shooting from 3-point range to start, the Lakers hung right with the Royals through most of the first half.

“We played extremely hard all game,” HLWW coach James Carr said. “We came out and executed the way we wanted to. The end of the first half kind of got away from us though but I’m proud of how the guys competed.”

HLWW was within five with just over five minutes left in the first half. That’s when W-M made their run as they closed the half on a 13-2 run and then opened the second half with the first six points of the half to break things open.

“Those are big momentum swingers,” Janikula said. “To win the last bit of the first half and come out the way we did in the second half was big.”

W-M’s game plan was clear from the start. With HLWW missing Alex Zimmermann who was out with injury, the Royals leaned on their big men inside each time down the floor as they outscored HLWW 58-18 in the paint.

“That’s kind of our gameplan in general but with them missing a guy inside that was obviously part of the game plan,” Janikula said. “We have three guys who can score inside so we wanted to make sure we found the matchup we like and pound it inside and I thought we did a good job of that.”

Despite missing one of their key big man and scorers, Carr was happy with how his team fought despite being short-handed.

“We’ve dealt with injuries all season and have had guys step up into big roles,” he said. “It was fun to see guys step into positions where they kind of played out of position a bit. They got after it and worked really hard.”

With the loss, HLWW’s season comes to an end with an overall record of xx-xx. The Lakers took a big step forward this season as a program thanks to two key seniors in Cole Gilbert and Chase Deiter.

“Cole was kind of the heart and soul of our team,” Carr said. “He rebounded for us and almost averaged a double-double. He was able to hit tough shots and could get as hot as any player we’ve seen. He hit a lot of big shots. Chase was our absolute motor when it came to energy. We know when we put Chase in there he is going to give us everything he has. Chase and Cole take charges every single night and our younger guys saw that and it carried over to them. That’s a huge energy thing for us and it started with our seniors. That’s a selfless play. When your seniors and captains are doing that, it’s a good thing for your program.”

The future is bright for HLWW going forward with several sophomores and juniors returning next season. After getting a taste of what varsity basketball is all about, Carr is excited about the future of the program going forward.

“It was good for them to experience a playoff game with this much intensity and experience the grind of a full varsity season,” he said “A lot of these kids who were playing didn’t play a lot on junior varsity or have many varsity minutes. All these minutes they got this year will pay dividends next year.”

With the win, W-M advances to the Section 5AA quarterfinals where they will face either Minneapolis Edison or Southwest Christian. While W-M’s section is loaded from top to bottom, Janikula is hoping the experience his team brings pays off.

“Pretty much every kid who’s playing for us has playoff experience,” he said. “I think that does matter. Last year we played the state champions twice and the runner-up in the playoffs. We’ve got a lot of experience. These kids played in the state football playoffs and the state baseball tournament. I think that helps. I thought the kids were excited and not nervous in the locker room beforehand. I think that’s a credit to the success they’ve had across the board.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

SURVIVE AND ADVANCE: Schauer, Bulldogs hold off an upset bid from BLHS in Section 2A opener

LESTER PRAIRIE – When the final horn finally went off, Lester Prairie boys basketball coach Andrew Dahl could finally take a sigh of relief.

All game long Dahl and the Bulldogs had fans on the edge of their seats as they never could quite pull away for good from Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart in their Section 2A North Sub-Section quarterfinal matchup. Despite being in control for most of the game, it came down to the wire and it was junior Trever Schauer coming through in big spots down the stretch in a thrilling 57-55 win for Lester Prairie Tuesday night.

“That’s the thing about March I guess,” Lester Prairie coach Andrew Dahl said. “You just have to find a way to win. We had some really good stretches and some tough ones too where we couldn’t get stops. I’m proud of the guys for executing down the stretch and getting a bucket when we needed one. I’m just happy to advance at this point.”

With BLHS trailing by three with 22 seconds coming out of a timeout, a desperation shot from the corner found the bottom of the net to tie the game at 55 with just 6.3 seconds left to play. Coming out of a timeout of their own, Lester Prairie got Schauer in space who drew a foul with 3.6 seconds left. Schauer would sink both free throws to put the Bulldogs up 57-55 but he wasn’t done there. He came up with a huge block at the buzzer on the Mustangs’ final shot as Lester Prairie held on for a thrilling win at the horn.

“He’s big time,” Dahl said about Schauer. “He scores inside or outside. He’ll play a little point guard for us too at times. I’m really proud of him for finding some ways to get some buckets when we needed him. He does a lot for us and he did it tonight.”

The Bulldogs were in control of the game throughout but never could pull away. BLHS led 3-0 out of the gate but never led the rest of the game as Lester Prairie kept them at bay for most of the game until the final minutes.

“We knew they weren’t going to go away so we just had to keep as much of a lead as we could,” Dahl said. “They have some good players and those guards are tough. They can shoot the ball and they’re quick and aggressive to the rim. I think it was good for us to have a close game though to prepare us for games going forward.”

Lester Prairie’s execution out of timeouts and halftime were crucial in the win. The Bulldogs came through with easy buckets out of a set play multiple times in the win, a big key in a close game in the postseason.

“For the postseason, we’ve worked a little more on that in practice,” Dahl said. “It’s nice having a couple of sets that we can go to for some easy buckets. In a tight game like that, those are huge to get some easy buckets. I’m proud of the guys for locking in and doing their roles when they needed to make the right play.”

The Bulldogs came into the matchup shorthanded as they were missing senior Tanner Scheevel who was out with an ankle injury. That gave players like Caiden Herrmann, LaDamien Gatlin-Coellner, and Kaden Otto a chance to step up and deliver and they did just that in the win.

“A lot of the other guys stepped up too,” Dahl said. “Missing Tanner, it was nice to have a few guys step up and take those minutes and make plays for us.”

Despite coming into the postseason on a three-game losing streak, Lester Prairie was feeling good about themselves coming in.

“We lost three in a row but I thought the last two we played pretty well,” Dahl said. “We were scoring better so we had some positive things coming in even though we didn’t get a win. It was nice to get out there again though. It was a long week waiting for our first playoff game but I’m glad we came out and got it done.”

With the win, Lester Prairie is scheduled to take on No. 2 BOLD in the Section 2A North semifinals Thursday. Section games around the state have been moved around due to forecasted weather for Thursday. Stay connected with Herald Journal to see if a schedule change is made to the Section 2A Tournament.

“We knew BOLD is a good team,” Dahl said. “They got some size and some athletes. We played at their place last year and had a good competitive game with them. We kind of expect the same thing later this week.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

SECTION 2A BOYS HOCKEY: Brown’s big night sends Delano back to section title game

ST. LOUIS PARK – Slow starts have been a common theme for the Delano boys hockey team of late. That script changed in a big way in their Section 2A semifinal matchup with Waconia as the Tigers scored early and often in a 6-1 win over the Wildcats Tuesday night.

“I thought for a majority of the game we were really good,” Delano coach Gerrit van Bergen said. “Overall, it was really good. It was fun to score a little bit because we haven’t been scoring a bunch much.”

“It was pretty fun for the boys to get a big win,” senior Will Brown added. “It’s even more exciting knowing we’re going to be playing again Friday. We’re looking forward to that.”

After scoring just one goal in the first period in their past four games, Delano got things going early. Will Brown opened the scoring off an assist from Brayden Coppin and the floodgates opened after that for Delano. Cooper Nielsen and Teague Collings each added goals just seconds apart as the Tigers took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.

“It was huge to get ahead early, especially against a team that looked hot coming in,” Brown said. “They upset a team that we lost to so it was pretty big to get ahead early and put them away.”

Despite a three-goal lead entering the second period, Delano knew they needed to stay aggressive as Waconia came out of the break firing.

“I thought our end of the first period was terrible,” van Bergen said. “The message was we were up by three and that we can’t stop competing. We can’t stop playing to our identity and they knew that. They knew they didn’t do that and that’s what is great about this group. They’re really honest and really humble. When we’re hard on them, they respond because they want to be better. That’s what’s fun about this group.”

The Wildcats had a few good looks early on as they came out with some extra energy but Brown quickly silenced them with his second goal of the game to make it 4-0 Delano.

“I thought we got back to our identity really quick,” van Bergen said. “That doesn’t mean we were super smooth, but we were more physical and simple with things and communicated and worked harder. Even though they had a little buzz going early, we had no sense of panic because we knew we were already playing better.”

Waconia would get on the board midway through the second period but it was Brown who once again had the answer with his third goal of the game to put the Tigers back up by four.

“I’m super tough on Will,” van Bergen said. “I’ve known him since the day he was born. He’s a guy that we need to score and he knows that. Getting him to the middle of the ice without the puck so we could get him the puck was really big tonight. He’s such a valuable piece of this team.”

Teague Collings and Aaron Lewis also played a big role in the win. Both are guys who have been playing well as of late for the Tigers and success is coming along with that.

“Teague and Aaron have really been good too,” van Bergen said. “Teague has been on an absolute tear. Aaron just played his game. He’s huge and just goes straight forward and when he does that where he plays on top of the puck, there’s only one guy I know who can compete with him.”

Despite a 13-12 record during the regular season, Delano finds themselves playing for a section title once again. It’s the fifth season in a row the Tigers will play for a trip to state and they don’t care what their record looks like because they know it’s helped them get to where they are at.

“We tried to put together the most challenging schedule we could,” van Bergen said. “Our schedule is filled with teams who are in the top 20 across the state. That’s who we want to be. We’re hoping we’re taking steps toward that. We knew going in it was going to be hard to have a good-looking record because of who was on our schedule and that was OK with us. Although it’s not easy at the moment, I think this group likes what it represents. We wanted to challenge them. We play those games so when it comes to crunch time, it’s not the first time you’re under pressure in a big game.”

“The schedule we play is tough,” Brown added. “We assembled that for good reason. We want to be challenged during the year and I hope it pays off here down the stretch.”

Over the years of success for Delano, they’ve had a history of changing previous outcomes in the postseason. Over the past three seasons, The Tigers are 3-1 against teams they lost to in the regular season and then played again in the postseason including a double-overtime thriller against Orono last season. Delano will be looking for that trend to continue as they’re set to face off with rival Orono in the section championship.

“I think what we’ve done, and we’re really intentional about it, is that we don’t push a certain identity until it’s time,” van Bergen said. “A lot of times that identity comes really late. We thought we had an idea of what our identity would be early and we were wrong. We had to make adjustments. In my experience, it’s easy to get a team to peak early but it’s really hard to get a team to peak at the right time. We don’t worry about our identity early on. I don’t think the style we’re playing right now is what we thought it would be earlier this season. They’re really starting to like that identity because they’re starting to feel success. That’s what I hope is the difference for us. We’re going to work hard the next two days in practice and we’ll take a run at them.”

The Tigers will be playing for the section title for a fifth-straight season. They are 3-1 in the previous four section championship games and looking for their first state tournament appearance since 2021 after finishing as runner-ups last year. They’ll face off against Orono in the Section 2A championship game Friday night at the St. Louis Park Rec Center at 7 p.m. The Spartans defeated Delano 5-1 earlier this season.

“It’s my fourth time in four years playing in a section final,” Brown said. “It’s really cool for our team. It’s super fun to play in these kinds of games and it’s got a big energy level. It’s going to be great going against our rival and should be a lot of fun.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

STATE OF MIND: W-M/MW’s Kelley cliches second-straight Class A all-around title

ST. PAUL – There was a time in Watertown-Mayer/Mound Westonka’s Reagan Kelley’s life when gymnastics was a question mark. After years of competing in club gymnastics took a toll on her body and mind, there was a sense of doubt hovering over her gymnastics career.

“There was a time where she was going to walk away from gymnastics,” W-M/MW coach Steve Hangartner said. “She didn’t want to do it anymore. Now she just loves gymnastics again. That’s a big reward to us when you see that. She still wants to do it. We knew she had a lot of talent but she was going to walk away. To see where she is now is awesome.”

Kelly’s love for the sport was on full display as she capped off her high school career winning her second-straight Class A state title in all-around Saturday night, posting a score of 38.500.

“Coming in today, I felt like there was a lot more competition than there was last year,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of girls’ all-around (scores) go up and up this year. I was a little bit nervous, but I have a lot of confidence in myself. I know what I needed to do to pull it off and I did and it feels really good.”

Coming off a stellar performance in the team competing the night before, Kelley picked up right where she left off. A score of 9.85 on vault for her opening rotation set the tone for what was to come the rest of the night.

“It gave me such a confidence boost to start off strong with a stick,” Kelley said. “Today I actually stuck it. It gave me a big confidence boost for the rest of the meet. It was a great way to start off.”

There was just one focus for Kelley throughout the night – herself. With multiple gymnasts on her heels, Kelley took care of business and it paid off with her second-straight state title.

“Today, I came in just thinking about myself,” she said. “I was just trying not to look at other people. I just needed to pull it together on my own and I think I did a good job at that.”

“I noticed today how positive she was,” Hangartner added. “She was focused. I came up to her and told her that she missed this and this and she just told me that it’s alright. I just had to make sure I stayed positive to keep on pumping her up. She was in the zone all night. She was ready to go and we just left her alone.”

Kelley carried a ton of pressure on herself this season, labeled as one of the top gymnasts in the state. Looking to help lead her team back to the state meet again, she did just that as she helped an almost entirely new roster keep their impressive winning streak intact this season.

“We noticed that she took on a lot of pressure this year,” Hangartner said. “She took on a lot more this year. With how good she is, even if she doesn’t hit, her score is still going to count. If she misses, that’s five-tenths off our team score and she knows that. She really had support from the whole team all year. She was crying just because she didn’t want the season to end.”

Kelley’s presence for the Royals will be missed beyond her talent. She had a way of connecting with her teammates all season long, a bond that helped herself and the team make it another memorable season capped off in the best way possible.

“She was just a joy to have around,” Hangartner said. “She was hanging out with eighth graders like they were best friends. For those girls to get to hang out and practice with the best gymnast in the state, that’s awesome. That’s memories they’re going to have for the rest of their lives. You get to know these girls in a personal way and it’s really rewarding.”