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Nelson, Blue Jays 'giving their all' so far this season

Haley Nelson is the only senior on the Jamestown High School gymnastics team this season.

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Haley Nelson performs on the balance beam on Dec. 14 during a meet at the Jamestown Gymnastics Center. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Haley Nelson may have been counted among the top-three gymnasts at all four of the Blue Jay gymnastics teams meets so far this season but that is not good enough for the two-time state champ.

"Personally I feel like I’m not at where I want to be," Nelson, the Blue Jays' lone senior said. "I practiced the majority of the offseason and have been really working to upgrade my floor and bar routines. This season some of the goals I’m shooting for is really just to have fun and give it everything I have one last time."

Nelson, the 2020 state champ on bars and the 2019 champ on balance beam, is coming off a slightly disappointing end to her junior season.

The senior was gunning for a first-place finish in the all-around competition after coming within 0.034 points of 2020 champion Ayanna Fossum of Dickinson. While she managed scores in the mid-nines in three of the four events, Nelson wound up third at last season's Class A State Gymnastics Meet. The Blue Jay senior scored a four-event total of 37.267.

This season, fans and her teammates can expect some more of the same -- or even a little bit better -- from the senior.

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So far this season, Nelson has recorded four vaults that have been scored in the nines. Head coach Andrea Bitz said Nelson suffered an ankle injury a couple of seasons ago that has prevented her from doing her best work on vault but since the start of the season, the senior has shown little to no ill effects.

Nelson's best vault of the season was scored as a 9.40 at the Hi-Liner Invite in Valley City on Dec. 17.

On floor, one of Nelson's best events, the senior has been averaging a 9.4 across the team's last five meets. Her best score came in the form of a 9.6 at the Jays' opening meet in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and at the Blue and White Fun Meet in Valley on Dec. 20. Nelson won the floor title at both competitions with the next highest score being at least .250 points lower.

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Haley Nelson performs on the balance beam on Dec. 14 during a meet at the Jamestown Gymnastics Center. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Still, while she's pulled out four individual event first-place finishes, one all-around title and three other top-three all-around placements, Nelson said she isn't looking too closely at the numbers this season.

"I think I’ve become way more consistent on my vaults and in my floor routine which gives me more confidence going into them," Nelson said. "At the end of the season, I want to end knowing that I and my team did the very best we could and gave it our all no matter the places or scores."

Jamestown has done pretty well for themselves when it comes to giving it their all.

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"I’d say we’re definitely starting to get back into the groove of things and show what kind of team we can be," Nelson said. "We have been working a lot in the offseason and we also have a couple of new girls on the team along with girls that are stepping up into positions they haven’t been in before which is great to see."

The Blue Jays have taken first at three of the five meets, outscoring their competition by more than three points. Most recently, Jamestown took home the Blue and White Fun Meet title, defeating Valley City 143.780-140.800.

At the Dickinson Invite and the Hi-Liner Invite earlier this month, the Jays ended up placing second as a team. Jamestown's next test is slated to come on Jan. 7 at their home gymnastics gym.

"We are obviously always looking at Dickinson, but Valley City too," Nelson said of teams to beat this season. "They both beat us last year at state and we don’t plan on that happening again."

Dickinson, the eight-time, current defending state champs, won both invites. At the 2020-21 State Meet, the Midgets strung together a team score of 148.5 points, beating out the state runner-up Hi-Liners by 2.75 points. The Blue Jays ended up third in the state team competition scoring a 144.40.

While the Midgets are proving to be as dominant as ever again this year, the Jays have the luxury of returning the entire state-placing team.

"It’s nice having a lot of the same girls on the team because they know what they need to do and they can step up in big ways for our team, like Emma Hillerud on floor is always a huge score for us and Brenna Hatch’s vaults are always enormous," Nelson said. "A lot of the younger girls are making an impact too like Julia (Skari) and Jasmine (Houmann).

Houmann placed sixth in the all-around at the Blue and White Fun Meet while Skari has been a powerhouse on vault and beam for the Jays. Nelson said having such a positive and talented group of teammates behind her has made her job of being the only Blue Jay senior for the second-straight year, a little easier.

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"Being the lone senior is definitely hard because nobody else is going through what you are and you don’t get to experience it with anyone else," Nelson said. "At the same time, I don’t really feel alone because I have all my teammates and coaches constantly supporting me.

"This team is something special. We are always having fun no matter how terrible we do and we are always motivating each other to get better in one way or another."

Blue and White Fun Meet

Dec. 20, Valley City

Jamestown 143.780, Valley City 140.800

Top finishers / Blue Jay results (Top 8)

All-Around: 1. Katrina Olson, Valley City, 37.200; 3. Haley Nelson, 37.100; 4. Brenna Hatch,35.580; 5. Emma Hillerud, 35.000; 6. Jasmine Houmann, 33.900; 7. Allysah Larson, 33.800.

Vault: 1. Abby Thornton, Valley City, 9.350; 2. B. Hatch, 9.100; 3. E. Hillerud, 8.950; 4. Nelson, 8.900; T6. S. Fisher, 8.650; T6. A. Larson, 8.650.

Uneven Bars: 1. K. Olson, Valley City, 9.650; 2. Nelson, 9.250; 4. Houmann, 8.750; 5. B.Hatch, 8.380; 6. A. Larson, 8.300; T8. Lucy Falk, 8.050; T8. Makenna Pettys, 8.050.

Balance Beam: 1. K. Olson, Valley City, 9.800; 2. Nelson, 9.350; T3. E. Hillerud, 9.200; 5.B. Hatch, 9.000; 6. J. Houmann, 8.800; 7. L. Falk, 8.700.

Floor Exercise: 1. Nelson, 9.600; 3. Blair Arbuckle, 9.250; T4. E. Hillerud, 9.200; 6. Brenna Hatch, 9.100; 7. Sydney Fisher, 9.000.

Related Topics: GYMNASTICSPREP SPORTSJAMESTOWN BLUE JAYSBLUE JAYS GYMNASTICS
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 kringer@jamestownsun.com or by phone at 701-952-8460.
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