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Setting The Bar: Blue Jay gymnasts start strong

Rachel Schiele performs her bars routine last season for the Blue Jays during competition at the Jamestown Gymnastics Club. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Jamestown enjoyed a banner season last winter in high school gymnastics.

Rachel Schiele earned the Blue Jays' first individual state championship since 1972, and what would have been a team score of 143.533 during the individual portion of the state gymnastics meet was possibly the school's best performance ever, according to coach Dave Tews.

Jamestown posted a 138.0 right out of the gate last Thursday in Aberdeen, which is close to the annual benchmark normally set by Tews and the Jays. The team will be performing for a second time tomorrow at a multi-team invitational in Dickinson.

Dickinson and Minot have so far turned in team scores of 148.250 and 137.925, respectively. Bismarck High (137.4) is also in the vicinity of the Jays' 138.

"Every year we write it down that we are shooting for 140," Tews said. "We did really well last season and 140 would be a good goal for us again this season."

Jamestown lost two seniors—both all-state performers—to graduation, but last week's performance has proven the team is right back on track. Senior Hannah Schiele, Rachel's older sister and all-WDA selection, won the balance beam (9.350) and ran away with the all-around title (35.550). Rachel, a freshman, is the defending balance beam state champion (9.533) and was named team MVP as an eighth-grader after being voted all-state.

Hannah Schiele and Alexis Triebenbach make up the Jays' senior class. Triebenbach qualified for state in the all-around last winter, while Schiele captured fifth in the event (36.483).

"We are looking forward to great leadership from our seniors this season," Tews said. "Alexis is coming off of a successful diving season where she qualified for state and Hannah was our leading scorer last year and we're hoping she continues to do that."

Freshman McKenna O'Neal is back after qualifying for state on vault, uneven bars and the floor exercise as an eighth-grader, as is sophomore Courtney Mack, who qualified for state on vault. Junior Abby Kallenbach has returned to gymnastics for the first time since middle school, providing the team with some depth.

"We're looking forward to Abby's athletic skills helping us. It'll take her a little while to get fully back into it," Tews said. "Courtney was last season's team Most Improved award winner and hopes to build on last season, and we also hope to see more growth this season with McKenna's athleticism."

Eighth-grader Haley Nelson started with a bang last week, winning the bars (8.5), floor (9.6) and tying O'Neal for tops on vault (9.0) in Aberdeen. Nelson placed fourth on the floor (9.283) at the state individual meet last winter.

"Haley works very hard during the off season, and really there are no limits to what she could accomplish," Tews said. "Sophomores Erin Gee, Sadie Meissner and Rachel Woodley, freshman Carly Rapp, and eighth-grader Kaelyn Nygaard, are back after strong seasons last season and are looking to help the team.

"We also have a core group of middle school athletes that can develop into important members of the team later this season and in the future."

Jamestown placed fourth in the team portion of the state meet last winter (142.283).

"Hopefully we can grow as a team again this season," Tews said. "I would like to think a goal for us is to be in that three, four and five mix in state."

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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