Column: Blown away by excellence
The 2011 Minnesota State Class A Gymnastics meets were incredibly rewarding experiences on multiple levels for everyone involved.
Over the course of two days of competition, emotions ranged from pain to ecstasy.
Satera Montella tweaked an ankle on a landing, grimaced, walked it off and proceeded to the next apparatus, where any evidence of even the slightest twinge was hidden by a great performance on uneven parallel bars.
Carly Petersen missed the landing on her first vault and with steely determination stormed back on her last attempt to gain her second state vault title. Cheers came not from just the throng of fans in yellow and black; the entire stadium cheered that vault and for a shining moment all cameras snapped and hands clapped.
Jordan Martinson was called upon with bellows from her team of, "you can do this!" to nail a balance beam performance. Martinson, a seventh-grader, showed a brief expression of nerves before wearing a smile for the length of her excellent performance, second best on the team, causing the largest eruption of joy from her team yet.
"You wrapped it up!" Head Coach Charlie Fleck beamed.
With the last rotation to go, the team title remained in Jacket hands for an eighth consecutive year.
Being on the floor near the team is a privilege and allots the experience from as close as possible for one in the mode of reporting only. Short glances between teammates, a command of coaching advice and encouragement, the hugs after amazing performances, all captured on paper and photo, for sure, but the feelings behind such incredible accomplishment and the fulfilling of what must seem incredibly pressure-filled goals are best experienced up close.
Mikaela Eickschen performing with grace while in pain was witness to determination and putting the needs of the team before herself. On the podium, she noted she was breathless. It was easy to find one's self in the same predicament watching her perform. Eickschen was an inspiration to many.
Then there was the star of the show, Kelsi Vomacka, four-time all-around runner up. Could there be more pressure? No, and she felt it in the nerves of Friday evening.
Not once could those nerves be seen come Saturday. Her presence, her history, her career flew around the stadium. Everyone in attendance knew her name and all eyes were on her every time she stepped to the floor.
"That Vomacka is really good," was a phrase heard multiple times in passing conversation, from other coaches, parents, gymnasts and members of the press, during my saunters around the Sports Pavilion.
As Kelsi landed her final performance on bars, completing her career, she was overcome with emotion and those of us in the surrounding thirty feet were hit with a wave of rejoicing.
The outcome was not official and it was close, but the meet had the feel that it was Kelsi's and it was because of Kelsi's feelings. Interviewing her post-podium, she radiated bursts of confidence and beamed with humble and deserving pride. She was the best and had just proven it.
I was blown away by this team's excellence and smiled with pride when asked by many which team I was covering.
That was an easy answer.
"Oh, I'm with the state champs."
It truly was a pleasure to cover this event and witness dynasty.
Sincere congratulations to Coach Fleck and his team.