Perham gymnasts dealt with a condensed season this and now prepare for a condensed state competition.
The Perham Yellowjackets return to the state gymnastics meet Friday, March 27. In addition to team competition, three gymnasts -- senior Jada Olsen and freshmen Brittney Lorentz and Avery McAllister -- also qualified in individual events.
Olsen will once again compete in the all-around competition, while Lorentz will compete in the uneven bars and vault, and McAllister will compete in beam and vault. The tournament looks a little different this year, according to Perham head coach Jenna Kupferschmid. "This year there's no team and individual day. It's all one day, so they only get one chance," she said.
The Yellowjackets are currently ranked third in the state for Class A, behind No. 1 ranked Worthington and No. 2 Pine Island/Z-M. The state tournament will be held at Champlin Park High School Friday, March 27.
Because of COVID, the season was shortened and the gymnasts didn't have their usual pre-season weeks of practice. "It took them a while to get back into the swing of things, and I still feel even at sections that we weren't quite there," Kupferschmid said. "But you know they kept getting better and better as they've progressed through the season, and that's what we like to see as coaches."
Olsen also felt the toll of the shortened practice time when talking about how this season was different from previous seasons. "The hardest part of it was not having our usual off season to practice, so we were coming in kind of cold and were a lot more sore in the first few weeks," Olsen said. "It definitely took a toll on the body, but after we got through the initial two weeks of pre-meet practice and after our first meet, we started seeing improvements."
Kupferschmid feels the team is where it should be now, which is good timing heading into the state meet. Some of the gymnasts are working on adding upgrades to their routines to make them more difficult and give them the potential for higher scores.
"Now that we made it to state, we have a few girls who are trying to throw in some upgrades that they didn't have time for at sections," Kupferschmid said. "But this last week of practice they just need to focus, stay consistent, and stay safe."
As defending state all-around champion, Olsen does feel some pressure, but she says she tries to beat her own scores more than she tries to beat other people, and she can be very hard on herself.
"I know what I'm capable of, and if I don't get that I definitely play head games with myself," Olsen said. "A lot of people say that I'm hard on myself, but it's specifically for gymnastics that I'm hard on myself."
To illustrate how Olsen can be hard on herself, she has kept a notebook since seventh grade in which she writes her scores so she can keep track of them and know how she's doing at any given meet.
"I really like to know where I'm at compared to past scores and what I could get if I added up all my best events," Olsen said. "It's definitely my goal to have all my best scores during one meet, and it's definitely hard to do that."
There are a lot of tough teams the Yellowjackets will face at state this year, but there are every year according to Kupferschmid. "I think as long as each girl individually does their best for us then that's going to benefit the team, and as long as they don't put too much pressure on themselves and just do what they've been doing in practice, then they'll be fine."
Knowing it's her last year competing at state is bittersweet for Olsen. "I never expected it to go this fast," Olsen said. "I remember in seventh grade I wrote on a little index card, 'You've got this year, and five more years after that, you can do it, you can make it through this,' and now it's my sixth year."