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UPDATED: Gymnasts continue decade of section dominance

Perham won their 10th consecutive section championship Saturday in Fergus Falls. All photos by Bob Williams/FOCUS1 / 8
Alexis Peichel had one of three important and excellent beam performances to wrap up the Section 8A title for Perham.2 / 8
The all-around finishers salute the crowd after receiving their medals. L-R: Rachelle Leblanc, Satera Montella, Jessica Stelter, Alexis Peichel, Natalie Hoffert, Thia Olds, Katie Jensen.3 / 8
Carly Breitenfeldt returned from injury and made an important impact on Perham's performance at the Section 8A meet.4 / 8
Natalie Hoffert landed 9.250 performance on bars in a late comeback attempt by Detroit Lakes.5 / 8
Justine Meyer is congratulated by head coach Charlie Fleck and her teammates after a 9.275 performance on beam.6 / 8
Jordan Martinson scored a 9.150 on her second vault, second on the team to Satera Montella's event-winning 9.425.7 / 8
Satera Montella finished runner-up in the overall competition at the Section 8A meet in Fergus Falls.8 / 8

FERGUS FALLS -- Perham gymnasts took the top spot in each event continuing an incredible streak of 10 consecutive Section 8A championships. Perham led wire to wire in the team portion but not without a bit of drama in the final rotation.

State Class A ranked No. 3 Perham led No. 4 Detroit Lakes 108.625-106.65 heading into the final apparatus.

Jordan Martinson led off the final rotation with a solid performance on balance beam but missed the beam on her dismount and narrowly avoided injury.

The fault made for a near two-point swing from a score near nine to low sevens. Holding a steady two-point team lead over Detroit Lakes the entire meet meant the Yellowjackets had some room for error but not a lot.

The Lakers were on bars and their cheers gained volume as the first two Jackets struggled on the beam. Adrienne Meyer scored an 8.200 on her attempt.

Perham gymnasts were quiet awaiting championship performances and drawing on the experience of seeing so many teams before them in this same position--time to close out the meet.

"This is the time of year that makes it all worthwhile," Head Coach Charlie Fleck said. "It's so exciting."

"We've been working really hard and they're ready," Perham senior Satera Montella said.

Montella prefers to lead this team by her performance rather than in words. She did just that capping off Perham's beam performance with a 9.575. Justine Meyer put up big numbers with a 9.275, along with a 9.050 from Alexis Peichel.

After the final rotation, a rowdy Laker bunch saw Perham put up a combined 36.100 to Detroit Lakes' 35.725 on bars erasing the Laker momentum and actually extending the winning gap between the teams by 0.375 in favor of the Jackets.

The Detroit Lakes coaching staff took exception with the judges' scoring on their last apparatus and the wait for final numbers was longer than normal as discussions were had about the scoring.

Nonetheless, the Yellowjackets had clinched a decade of dominance in Section 8A.

Montella finished second in the all-around scoring despite winning three events. Little Falls' Rachelle Leblanc won the title with a score of 37.325 to Montella's 37.05.

Montella and Leblanc were one-two in every event but bars.

Montella was the top scorer on vault, beam and floor exercise with Leblanc just behind.

The difference came on bars where a missed landing dropped Montella's score to 8.400. Leblanc was fifth with a 8.900, but that half a point gave her the all-around title.

Perham's Carly Breitenfeldt won the bars completing the Perham sweep of all four individual events.

Breitenfeldt has missed over a month of action due to injury.

"She just started tumbling today," Montella said.

"It's something when you miss five weeks and come back with a 9.425 on bars," said Fleck. "We've been really hitting bars in practice."

It showed as Peichel finished runner-up to Breitenfeldt with a 9.400.

Breitenfeldt was key to teaming with Montella early in the season leading Perham to an opening victory at the Jackie Mann to start the season and continuing the team's momentum through December. She will be a key this weekend when Perham goes for a ninth straight state championship.

While Martinson struggled landing her beam performance, it was her beam performance at last year's state meet that sealed the eighth state championship. She has proven she can perform on the biggest stage.

"Lexie Peichel and Jordan Martinson have been huge leaders this year," Montella said.

Peichel put up her biggest all-around score of the season, 36.175, finishing fourth behind Jessica Stelter of Detroit Lakes.

All-around champion Leblanc is a sophomore, while Montella and Stelter are both seniors. Peichel is only a freshman and is primed for a two-year section battle with Leblanc beginning next season.

Perham got off to a fast start beginning the section meet on floor exercise.

"Not a bad start," said Fleck.

The team's 36.925 on floor was Perham's highest total all season.

With the fourth-ranked team in the state out of the way, Perham will battle No. 1 Melrose and No. 2 New Prague for the state championship.

Perham's 144.700 section total was on par with the increasingly improving Yellowjackets and head coach Charlie Fleck knows there is room for more improvement.

"We left three points out there," said Fleck.

A score of 147 would have made the section meet a walk in the park and is a number that may be needed to continue Perham's gymnastics dynasty.

Perham won last year's state meet with a score of 146.025.

Melrose has not won the state title since 1995, when they won back-to-back championships.

Like Perham, a lone senior leads Melrose. Hailey Brinkman was third in last year's all-around behind Perham state champion Kelsi Vomacka and Detroit Lakes' Amy Crawford.

Melrose was third in last year's state team competition and fifth the year before. New Prague finished fourth at state the past two seasons.

Both schools have become accustomed to looking up at the championship podium and will definitely be gunning for the Yellowjackets.

Meanwhile, Perham looks to continue an unmatched tradition with a young team and a leader who leads by example.

"I don't know," Montella said when asked about this year's squad being her team.

A stark contrast to last year's boisterous senior trio of Vomacka, Carly Petersen and Mikaela Eickschen, Montella is reluctant to take on any more pressure that is not part of this team's makeup.

Montella is first to acknowledge her teammates and the leadership they have provided while this team has overcome injuries and having mostly underclassmen fill the necessary roles to get this far.

While Montella may not openly admit this is her team, if they win another state title, it certainly will be.

Meet notes: Alexis Peichel on bars and all-around, Jordan Martinson on floor and Justine Meyer on beam all qualified for the state individual tournament, along with Montella with her second place all-around finish.

The State gymnastics meet will be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24-25 at the Sports Pavilion on the campus of The University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Competition begins at 11 a.m. on both days.

Schedule & Tickets

The meet is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24 and 25, at the Sports Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. Team competition is scheduled for Friday, with Class A competition beginning at 11 a.m. and Class AA competition beginning at 6 p.m. The identical time schedule will be followed for Saturday's individual and all-around events, with Class A beginning in the morning and Class AA beginning in the evening.

Tickets for the meet are available at the Sports Pavilion. Adult tickets cost $12.00 per session and student tickets cost $8.00 per session.

The entire state meet -- team competition on the 24th and individual competition on the 25th -- will be webcast live and free on

Section 8A Championship Meet

Team Scores:

1. Perham 144.700

2. Detroit Lakes 142.400

3. Bemidji 132.425

4. Little Falls 129.625

5. Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 118.825

6. Park Rapids 110.900

7. Frazee 93.425

8. Fergus Falls 81.000


1. Satera Montella (P) 9.425, 2. Rachelle LeBlanc (LF) 9.325, 3. Jessica Stelter (DL) 9.275, 4. Natalie Hoffert (DL) 9.25, 6. Jordan Martinson (P) 9.15, 9. Thia Olds (DL) 8.775, 11. Hannah Okeson (DL) 8.625, 12. Jada Halbakken (P) 8.6, 13. Alexis Peichel (P) 8.6, 17. Madison Peichel (P) 8.5, 21. Leah Chavez (DL) 8.375, 28. Chandler Frigaard (FF) 7.95, 29. Morgan Laine (F) 7.875, 30. McKenna Hatlewick (FF) 7.85, 32. Montana Osterman (F) 7.7, 35. Hailey Ellingson-Wirth (F) 7.1, 36. Justice Gustafson (F) 6.6, 37. Courney Osterman (F) 6.15.

Uneven Bars

1. Carly Breitenfeldt (P) 9.425, 2. A. Peichel (P) 9.4, 3. Hoffert (DL) 9.25, 4. Stelter (DL) 9.15, 6. Olds (DL) 8.825, 7. Adrienne Meyer (P) 8.7, 8. Jordyn Peterson (DL) 8.5, 9. Montella (P) 8.4, 11. Martinson (P) 8.3, 12. Chavez (DL) 8.0, 18. Hatlewick (FF) 7.25, 20. Frigaard (FF) 7.1, 30. Osterman (F) 6.2, 34. Laine (F) 4.35, 35. Cassidy Ziegler (F) 4.25, 36. Ellingson-Wirth (F) 3.1, 37. Kirsten Tollefson (F) 2.95.

Balance Beam

1. Montella (P) 9.575, 2. LeBlanc (LF) 9.525, 3. Olds (DL) 9.45, 4. Justine Meyer (P) 9.275, 5. A. Peichel (P) 9.05, 6. Stelter (DL) 9.05, 7. Peterson (DL) 8.8, 9. Frigaard (FF) 8.25, 10. A. Meyer (P) 8.2, 12. Hoffert (DL) 7.85, 13. Katie Crawford (DL) 7.85, 20. Martinson (P) 7.1, 24. Hatlewick (FF) 6.75, 30. River Pehrson (FF) 6.0, 33. Sabrina Youngs (F) 5.6, 34. Osterman (F) 5.5, 36. Laine (F) 5.1, 37. Ziegler (F) 4.7, 38. Kiara Dekarske (F) 4.1, 39. Andrea Horstad (FF) 3.8.

Floor Exercise

1. Montella (P) 9.625, 2. LeBlanc (LF) 9.575, 3. Hoffert (DL) 9.4, 4. Martinson (P) 9.35, 5. Stelter (DL) 9.15, 6. A. Peichel (P) 9.125, 7. Breitenfeldt (P) 8.8, 9. Olds (DL) 8.7, 11. Madison Peichel (P) 8.45, 14. Abbie Einerson (DL) 8.35, 15. Frigaard (FF) 8.2, 24. Okeson (DL) 7.3, 26. Hatlewick (FF) 7.15, 31. Laine (F) 6.6, 32. Osterman (F) 6.5, 33. Pehrson (FF) 6.5, 34. Ellingson-Wirth (F) 6.3, 37. Tollefson (F) 5.9, 38. Ziegler (F) 5.85, 39. Horstad (FF) 4.2.


1. LeBlanc (LF) 37.325, 2. Montella (P) 37.025, 3. Stelter (DL) 36.625, 4. A. Peichel (P) 36.175, 5. Hoffert (DL) 35.75, 6. Olds (DL) 35.75, 7. Katie Jenen (B) 34.10, 8. Martinson (P) 33.90, 9. Amy Carey (B) 32.725, 10. Amanda Hanson (LF) 31.625.

Results courtesy of Minnesota Sports Online

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

(218) 844-1442