By BRAD SALMEN
For the first time in over 20 years, the Class A Gymnastics
State Tournament included a performer from Dassel-Cokato.
Kiana Keith advanced to the state meet after placing sixth in the beam with score of 8.90 in the Section 6A tournament.
Keith, a senior who until this season had participated in club gymnastics, became the first Charger to participate in the state tournament since 1997, when Kara Hedin did so in the vault.
Keith scored an 8.6625 at the state meet after falling on an aerial (a cartwheel with no hands), an advanced move she had only added to her routine in the week prior to state.
“It was new. I was pumped, because it has been my dream skill,” she said after her performance. “I did it. I fell, but I did it. At the end of the day, that’s good enough for me.”
In between Hedin and Keith, there was one other Charger who qualified for the state meet – DC head coach Alex Halonen.
Halonen, at the time known by her maiden name of Alex Wente, advanced to the state tournament in 2012 on the vault, but was unable to actually compete at the state tournament due to an injury.
Like Keith, Halonen had trained as a club gymnast throughout her high school career, until her senior season.
Along with Keith, the Chargers had three other graduating seniors from this year’s squad: Randi Bayerl, Madeline Pokornowski, and Grace Zeidler.
Bayerl and Pokornowski were each 3x varsity letterwinners, while Zeidler was among the leaders of a JV squad that ended up breaking the school JV team score record three times this season.
“All four of our seniors were outstanding leaders and teammates, and they will be missed,” said Halonen.
& Records Set
Letterwinners this season included:
• Kiana Keith, SR
• Randi Bayerl, SR
• Madeline Pokornowski, SR
• Grace Zeidler, SR
• Kianna Anderson, JR
• Lauren Abfalter, FR
DC had two gymnasts named to the Wright County Conference All-Conference team: Keith and Abfalter.
The Chargers continued their tradition of a strong academic showing, garnering the Section 6A Silver Team Academic Award.
Captains for the 2019-20 season were Kianna Anderson, Randi Bayerl, and Madeline Pokornowski.
Captains for next season will be Kianna Anderson and Carlie Tormanen.
“The Chargers are excited about next season for the feats that they accomplished this last year,” said Halonen. “The coaching staff and gymnasts are all looking forward to the upgrades in difficulty that we can add into the routines for the girls.”
Coach’s Final Thoughts
“I was very pleased with how this season went competitively for the Chargers,” said Halonen. “There were some high moments and low moments, but the girls learned how to respond and compete.
“With our JV squad really stepping it up and challenging each other for lineup spots, we ended up breaking the JV school record by five points. The varsity lineup also stepped up their difficulty and depth throughout the season as well.
“We ended the season on a high note with Keith qualifying for state on the beam, and hopefully we can continue that trend in years to come. I think all of us – coaches and athletes – caught a glimpse of what this program can turn into, and are ready to take that next step,” she said.