Park head gymnastics coach Mark Sikich believes the Wolfpack's 132.4 to 129.15 loss to Forest Lake in the first meet of the season on Thursday at Forest Lake High School was a good starting point for his team to improve upon.
"It's not really about the wins and the losses," Sikich said. "This is a good starting point. Now, where are we going to go from here? It's exciting, because if you have a good group of kids that really care and want to improve this is just a little bit of a reality check."
In the Forest Lake meet, Park's best event of the night was the floor routine, where ninth-grader Baylee Erickson and seventh-grader Kelly McKenzie tied for second place with matching 8.35 scores.
In addition to Erickson and McKenzie's floor routines, freshman Hayley Van Pelt and eighth-grader McKay Zurn tied for sixth in the event with 8.15 scores and sophomore Tessa Sikich turned in a 7.45 score to finish in ninth place.
"I was pleased with how the kids competed," coach Sikich said. "They were all cheering each other on and were keyed into it. That's what you hope for as a coach. I was excited from that perspective."
In the meet, McKenzie also finished third in the all-around competition, coming in a Wolfpack-high third in the beam with an 8.3, seventh in the vault with an 8.1 and was eighth on the bars with a 7.525 score.
"To compete at the varsity level like she did as a seventh grader speaks pretty highly of her potential." coach Sikich said.
Also on the bars, Park junior Alissa Munger finished third with a 8.125 score, the highest on the day for the Wolfpack in the event, followed by Tessa Sikich, who finished fourth with a 7.95 score, Erickson, who was sixth with a 7.8, McKenzie and junior Ali McDowell, who had a 7.4 and came in ninth.
On the beam, after McKenzie, Erickson was fifth with a 7.95, Van Pelt was sixth with a 7.8, McDowell was eighth with a 7.7 and freshman Jordan Arganbright was ninth with a 6.9 score.
"Bars is one of the hardest events for the kids, because it's all strength and timing," coach Sikich said. "It's just one of those things where the kids have to get back in the swing of things."
Coach Sikich believed the vault was Park's weakest event at Forest Lake, although each participant had an 8.1 or higher score in the event.
Park sophomore Ashley Mann had the Wolfpack's top score in the vault with an 8.5 and finished in third place. Tessa Sikich was fourth with an 8.2, McDowell was fifth with an 8.2, McKenzie was seventh and Munger was ninth with an 8.1 score.
"The vault, in regard to where we're at in the other three events is a little bit behind," coach Sikich said. "We're going to try and work our tail off to improve that. We're only going to go up. There's no question."
In the JV competition, Park topped Forest Lake 121.15 to 111.
Park's best JV event was also the floor competition, with the Wolfpack taking the top five spots.
Munger had the top JV score with a 7.95, McDowell was second with a 7.75, Mann was third with a 7.6, Malin was fourth with a 7.55 and Arganbright was 7.35 score. Sophomore Sammy Johnson finished in seventh with a 6.9 score.
On the beam, Tessa Sikich had the top JV score of the meet with a 7.8 score. Munger was second with a 7.6, Malin was fourth with a 6.8, Mann and Zurn tied for fifth with 6.7 scores and Adams was seventh with a 6.4 score.
In the vault, Van Pelt was second with an 8.3, Arganbright was third with an 8.2, Zurn and Erickson tied for fifth with 8.0 scores, Schroeder and Adams tied for seventh with 7.9 scores and Johnson and Malin each scored 7.7 to tie for 10th overall.
On the bars, Zurn finished second overall with a 7.7 score, Schroeder was fourth with a 7.5, Van Pelt was fifth with a 7.0, Arganbright was seventh with a 6.7 and Malin was eighth with a 6.6.
Sikich said the team is showing a little bit of depth with the strong JV scores, even though the team is small, with only 16 total gymnasts.
"Sometimes the luxury of having more kids with more experience can help sway things in a lot of situations," coach Sikich said. "There's no question, that would be the ideal situation."
Team travels to Melrose for "fun" tournament
The team followed up the Forest Lake match with a four-team tournament in Melrose over the weekend, where Brainerd, Melrose and Eastview also participated.
The tournament was geared to be a fun event, with a unique format, where each team took three of its gymnasts and put them together on one team and did so until four mixed teams were formed and gave them names like blue team, purple team, black team and green team.
"We wanted all the girls to get to know each other and cheer each other on," Sikich said. "It was wonderful to see the kids compete how they did and pull for each other."
Coach Sikich felt the team showed marked improvement from the Forest Lake meet and the scores reflected that sentiment.
Turning in the high score of the day for Park was McDowell, who turned in a 9.1 on the bars.
Other finishes near the 9.0 level were turned in by Erickson on the floor with a 8.9, freshman Angie Adams on the vault with an 8.8 and McKenzie on the floor with an 8.7.
Solid finishes were also achieved by Arganbright on the vault with an 8.5, Munger on the bars with an 8.45, Zurn on the vault with an 8.6, Tessa Sikich on the vault with an 8.0, sophomore Jessie Malin with an 8.3 on the floor, Van Pelt with a 8.65 in the vault and by freshman Hannah Schroeder with an 8.35 in the vault.
"Right now, comparing our team to other teams in the conference, it's hard to say, but we should definitely be in the middle of the pack somewhere," coach Sikich said. "But, we're very young and inexperienced. The potential is incredible. They're definitely going to come along."
Next, the Park gymnastics team will host its first home match against SEC foe Mounds View on Thursday, Dec. 11 on its "Teacher Appreciation Night," where a brief ceremony will be held to honor teachers who have made an impact on the gymnasts.
"I'm very, very excited for that," Sikich said. "Competing with the home crowd, I'm looking for how the kids are going to do. The two things the kids can control are working hard and having a good attitude. By continuing to do those things the potential is incredible."