Schmitz starts and ends as a champ
BY BRIAN WIERIMA
Perham senior Jenna Schmitz knows success.
From start to finish of her prep gymnastics career, Schmitz was the conqueror of gold from her seventh grade year through her senior season.
Her ending was just as golden Saturday inside the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion, as Schmitz became Perham's third all-around state champion -- which included a second-consecutive gold medal on bars.
Perham racked up a total of six medals on the day, including the Yellowjackets' first-ever vault champion in Carly Petersen and a pair of silvers from junior Kelsi Vomacka.
It concludes an amazing run for Schmitz, which included six team state championships, three individual state titles, two All-State Elite honors as well as six section and Mid-State Conference banners.
In other words -- a whole lot of hardware.
"I don't think there could have been a better ending," said Schmitz, who helped her team claim its state record-tying, seventh-consecutive title the day before.
Schmitz started her day on floor, where she kicked off the golden spree by scoring a 9.5875 to add to her all-around mark.
"It was a solid start, it was one of my best routines (on floor) yet," Schmitz added.
That led into a little apprehension after Schmitz's first vault, where she staggered a little after her dismount.
On her second and final vault, Perham head coach Charlie Fleck suggested going the safer route and finishing with a tuck.
But Schmitz decided on a more difficult pike, adding some more pressure on her final attempt.
"There was more pressure on that one because if you fall, you will lose points," Schmitz said.
But, as it has gone throughout her career, the Perham senior came through and landed her pike for a 9.4375, thus keeping her in the all-around race.
The next event up was the bars, where Schmitz was the defending state champion.
"Jenna has always been good on bars," said Perham coach Fleck. "Four years ago, she was in the number four slot (at state) and went through her routine with a heavily taped ankle. That tells you of her mental toughness."
She had plenty of competition just in her rotation, with teammate Vomacka posting elite bar scores all season, as well as her Section 8-1A competitor, junior Amy Crawford from Detroit Lakes.
Schmitz did a nearly flawless bars routine for a 9.675 and the top score.
Vomacka was close on her heels with a 9.375 for bronze, and Crawford finished with a 9.3625.
"I knew (silver medal winner) Jenna Woelfel of Annandale was hitting 9.6's and Kelsi and Amy were some of the best on bars, too," Schmitz said. "But this was one of my better bar routines."
The beam was the final event of the meet -- and her career -- and one on which Schmitz has had countless hours of work in the last six years.
"I knew if I could just stay on beam and hit it, I would place high all-around," Schmitz said.
She made it count, too, finishing fourth with a 9.4375, while teammate Vomacka was second at 9.55 and Crawford the champion with a mark of 9.575.
With the strong finish, Schmitz nipped out Vomacka for all-around gold by a narrow margin of 38.1 to 37.9625, as Perham finished first and second.
"Jenna deserves it," Vomacka said. "Seeing Jenna achieve what she did this weekend, it's so amazing for a teammate to see.
"It's emotional, because we are so close and I do love her and she is so respectful. She is like a second coach to me and I'm so honored to see Jenna win it."
Schmitz finishes with three state individual titles, one behind former teammate Kourtney Johnston, while Vomacka has three, as well.
"Jenna is one of my most courageous gymnasts I've ever had," Fleck said. "She just outworks everyone."
From seventh grade on, Schmitz didn't know anything else but first place -- which was accomplished by sheer guts, hard work and determination.
So all's well that ends well, as Schmitz leaves the sport she loves so much, right where she started it -- as a champion.