Blue Jays Roundup: Gymnastics gets season underway

The Jamestown High School gymnastics team competed at Aberdeen (S.D.) Thursday evening.

For some Jamestown High School gymnasts, the reality that Dave Tews and his iconic mustache were absent from the gymnastics arena Thursday evening, took some getting used to but based on their performances, it was clear the recovery rate for most of the Bue Jays was pretty rapid.

"I think the girls feel really good about their performance and my assistant coach and I definitely feel good about what they did," recently hired JHS head gymnastics coach Andrea Bitz said. "We worked out some kinks and I think the transition from Dave not being here and everything turned out good. It can be tough sometimes when a coach leaves but they definitely stepped up."

Jamestown officially kicked off its competitive gymnastics season in Aberdeen, S.D. The Blue Jays topped the Aberdeen varsity squad 138.45-131.05. The team's next test is slated to come against defending state champions, Dickinson on Friday. The invite is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Midgets' home venue.

Bitz said the Jays showcased some high-level skills on the floor exercise and on vault on Thursday. While the meet saw some run-of-the-mill falls on beam and some uncharacteristic drops on bars, Bitz said the Jays were trying out new skills on each apparatus. The head coach said she does not expect falls to be a norm for this group of gymnasts.

"They love to perform for an audience and they are really good tumblers and always put on a good show on floor," Bitz said. "Dave was usually the vault coach and he was usually the one sporting the kids and so transitioning from his spotting to mine was a transition that some of them had to overcome and it was a really good thing.


"Some of them landed their vaults that hadn't landed them even last year. Their hard work in the last couple of weeks really paid off."

Junior Emma Hillerud was one who adapted well to Bitz's spotting. Hillerud's 9.0 performance, was only 0.20 points behind Julia Skari's meet-winning score. Haley Nelson wound up in second with a 9.1 while Hillerud tied Aberdeen's Ashlyn Beyer for third on the apparatus.

"She did very well on vault," Bitz said of Hilerud. "She's one that struggled on vault last year but she nailed it (in Aberdeen) so that was a good thing. On beam, she stuck her routine. On beam, she's about where she was last year and on vault, she definitely stepped it up a little bit. It will be a good year for her."

The junior also pulled out a first-place finish on balance beam, flipping her way to a 9.05, 0.10 points ahead of Nelson. A fifth-place finish on floor and a third-place routine on uneven bars, added up to an all-around score of 34.95, good enough for third-place. Nelson took second in the all-around, 0.50 points behind Aberdeen's Maggie Fites who won with a total score of 35.6 points.

The Blue Jays will have to do more of the same if they want a shot at placing among the top teams in Dickinson. At the 2020-21 State Meet, Dickinson strung together a team score of 148.5 points, beating out state runner-up Valley City by 2.75 points. The Midgets have won eight of the last nine state team championship titles.

The Blue Jays ended up third in the state team competition scoring a 144.40.

While the Jays have a ways to go, in regards to sharpening up skills and perfecting passes, Bitz said she thinks getting the win the team's first meet out, will aid the team down the stretch.

"It's always fun to come down here," Bitz said. "The girls really get their confidence going at a meet like this. Now we're just looking forward to going to Dickinson next Friday and seeing what is in North Dakota as far as teams and competition. It will be a good one next Friday."


Jamestown 138.450, Aberdeen 131.050

Top-finishers / Blue Jay results

All-around: 1. Maggie Fites, ABER, 35.6; 2. Haley Nelson 35.1; 3. Emma Hillerud 34.95; 5. Julia Skari 33.45; 6. Blair Arbuckle 33.1; 8. Allysah Larson 30.95.

Bars: 1. Fites 9.2; 2. Skari 8.2; 3. Hillerud 8.1; 4. Arbuckle 7.9; 5. Hatch 7.7; 7. Larson 7.5; 8. Nelson 7.45; 11. Jasmine Houmann 6.95.

Vault: 1. Skari 9.2; 2. Nelson 9.1; 3. Hillerud T3. 9.0; T6. Larson 8.7; 8. Arbuckle 8.6; T10. 8.4.

Beam: 1. Hillerud 9.05; 2. Nelson 8.95; 4. Arbuckle 8.2; 7. Brenna Hatch 7.55; 8. Skari 6.7; T10. Larson 6.2.

Floor: 1. Nelson 9.6; 2. Skari 9.35; 5. Hillerud 8.8; 7. Larson 8.55; 8. Arbuckle 8.4.

Katie Ringer is a sports reporter for the Jamestown Sun. Katie joined the Sun staff in the summer of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with a degree in journalism. She can be reached by email at or by phone at 701-952-8460.
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