A recent chat with Jamestown High School gymnastics coach Dave Tews went entirely different than similar discussions held back in November.
Tews feared the Blue Jays might not turn in a team score at this year's state gymnastics meet, and was hoping his team would at least clear 130 at some point during the season. Tews' young athletes, however, had other plans.
Jamestown is currently in position to possibly place as high as second at the state meet for the first time since 1971. The state gymnastics competition begins Friday, Feb. 22, at Jamestown High School's Jerry Meyer Arena, with the team portion of the event set to begin at 4 p.m.
The state individual competition will begin Saturday at 1 p.m. Jamestown is riding a second-place finish (139.925) turned in at last week's West Region competition in Minot.
"If we can do what we did at WDA and end up fourth, so be it. Especially thinking we'd be lucky to get a 130 at the beginning of the year," Tews said. "We've developed more and more as the year has gone on. We've been able to see that improvement and it's been awesome."
Jamestown finished third as a team at state last season, turning in a score of 141.783. That number probably won't be reached, as the Jays' top mark this year is 141.400. But Jamestown has defeated both Grand Forks (141.375 best) and Bismarck Legacy (141.475) in head-to-head competition this season, two of three teams ranked ahead of the Blue Jays in average score.
It's likely nobody will touch top-ranked Dickinson. The three-time defending state champion Midgets (149.605 average) have flirted with the impossible this winter, recording a program record 151.725 on Jan. 26.
"That's unbelievable," Tews said of the Midgets, who scored a 147.300 to win last week's West Region meet under coach Kent VanElls. "Their coaches felt last week their meet was the best they've had from top to bottom. And, if their top dogs hit, they're tough."
Jamestown has relied on three high schoolers: freshman Haley Nelson, sophomore Rachel Schiele and junior Courtney Mack. Tews said Mack's scores have been paramount in Jamestown's 2018-19 success.
"Courtney has been performing well all year, and we need to have her perform well," Tews said. "Those three we depend on, and we've got a handful of eighth-graders and a seventh-grader that we're excited for their future."
Eighth-graders Emma Hillerud, Blair Arbuckle, Anabelle Cramer and Brenna Hatch, along with seventh-grader Ryann Guscette, are all qualified for the state individual meet with the Jays' three qualified high schoolers. Seventh-grader Allysah Larson has also made strides in 2018-19.
"Those are the kids that have made a big difference, and they're all kinda wild cards and that's why we've improved so much this year," Tews said. "All nine kids will be doing something at state in the team competition."
Nelson has the best shot, statistically, at winning an individual championship on Saturday. The freshman's top floor routine of 9.8 is tied for the state's best score with Dickinson junior Ayanna Fossum-the defending floor champion.
Regardless of this weekend's outcome, this season has been a rewarding one for Tews and his assistant coaches.
"If you'd have told me at the beginning of the year we'd have a more realistic chance of placing second this year than last, I wouldn't have believed you," Tews said. "It's a testament to what the kids have been doing this year."
State Gymnastics Meet
Topped ranked individuals / Blue Jay Individual qualifiers
ALL-AROUND: 1. Ayanna Fossum, Dickinson, 37.908 average (38.125 best score); 5. Haley Nelson 36.975 (37.05); 9. Rachel Schiele 36.408 (36.65).
VAULT: 1. Brinklyn Schumacher, Dickinson, 9.683 (9.725); 7. Nelson 9.375 (9.4); 12. Schiele, 9.092 (9.125); 21. Courtney Mack 8.883 (9.0); 32. Ryann Guscette 8.767 (8.85); 34. Anabelle Cramer 8.7 (8.725).
FLOOR: 1. Fossum 9.708 (9.8); 2T. Nelson 9.658 (9.8); 8. Schiele 9.433 (9.5); 26. Brenna Hatch; 9.017 (9.4); 33. Mack 8.758 (9.0).
BARS: 1. Meghan Ackerman, Dickinson, 9.508, (9.55); 4. Nelson 9.233 (9.35); 7. Schiele 9.117 (9.2); 24. Emma Hillerud 8.483 (8.65); 34. Blair Arbuckle 7.9 (8.1).
BEAM: 1. Dacia Rambousek, Dickinson, 9.783 (9.85); 4. Nelson 9.458 (9.525); 14. Schiele 9.042 (9.2); 23. Hatch 8.758 (8.95); 33. Mack 8.567 (8.575); 34. Hillerud 8.525 (8.9).