Blue Jays have four of the state's best in prep gymnastics
Four members of the Jamestown High School gymnastics team were named to the 2022 All-State gymnastics team.
Emma Hillerud had two main goals headed into her junior season with the Jamestown High School gymnastics team.
"My main goals for this year were to help my team do the best we can at State — and stay on the beam," Hillerud said.
Hillerud got rewarded for accomplishing her two goals on March 14.
The junior along with her teammates, Haley Nelson, Blair Arbuckle and Julia Skari were named to the 2022 All-State Gymnastics Team. Hillerud, Nelson and Skari received first-team honors while Arbuckle was named to the second-team.
The Blue Jays wrapped up the 2021-22 season at the 2022 State Gymnastics Meet on Feb. 25-26, where they claimed their third-straight runners-up title. Day No. 2 of the season-ending meet marked the individual competition where the Blue Jays had four placers in the top-15 in the all-around.
"My goal this year was to do my best for my team," Hillerud said. "I wasn’t really thinking about All-State but getting it was definitely an honor."
The All-State nomination was Hillerud's first of her prep career. The junior finished the state all-around competition with a total score of 36.517, good enough for an eighth-place finish. Hillerud's strongest events during State came on beam (9.583) and floor (9.617).
"I started gymnastics when I was 3 and I have stuck with it because I love the team," Hillerud said. "We have all been basically growing up together in the gym so it’s like a second home. Getting to hang out with them every day and meeting the younger kids as they come up is so much fun."
Hillerud was ranked as the state's tenth-best all-around gymnast during the regular season with an all-around average of 35.950 points.
"I think Haley, Julia and Emma all deserved to be named All-State, they work really hard in the gym and they are always so positive during meets," Arbuckle said. "They cheer us all on but they also perform really well."
While the three Blue Jay powerhouses were ranked in the top-10 all season long, Arbuckle had plenty to be proud of in her own right.
The junior put together a great last couple meets for the Blue Jays, which got her up to spot No. 17 heading into the West Regional and State contests. Arbuckle consistently scored in the high 8s on vault, beam and uneven bars and cracked into the 9s on floor exercise.
Still, Arbuckle was surprised when she was scrolling through Twitter and saw a tweet from the WDA Sports Page announcing the second-team, All-State list.
"I honestly forgot about the All-State team and I was kind of shocked when I saw that I was a part of it," Arbuckle said. "My main goal was just to do the best that I can for myself and the team. I definitely think I accomplished that goal but there’s still room for improvement."
In the state all-around competition, Arbuckle notched her top scores on beam (9.017) and floor (9.083). The junior improved by 0.134 points on beam from day No. 1 of the state competition to the second day.
"I have been in gymnastics for about 12 years now," Arbuckle said. "I think the reason why I’ve stuck with it so long is because of the friends I’ve made throughout the years, they are like my second family.
"Even though the sport is so physically and mentally demanding and makes a person want to quit sometimes, it's hard to just give up on your teammates."
Making the team the focus seemed to be a common theme among the four Blue Jays.
"Individual achievements are always nice but my focus has always been the team," Skari said. "I think we just push ourselves harder and motivate each other into getting better. My favorite part of this season was at WDA when we beat the program high record."
At the West Regional Meet, the Blue Jays pulled together to earn a program high score of 146.125 points. The Blue Jays went on to break the record again, finishing the state team competition with146.650 points. Prior to the two postseason meets, Jamestown's previous high score was 144.500.
Skari was named to the second-team, All-State team in both seventh and eighth grade but this season marked her first first-team, All-State nomination.
The freshman was ranked No. 9 in the all-around throughout the regular season, having turned in scores that averaged out to 36.233 across the Blue Jays' 10 regular season meets.
Skari hit scores in the 9s in three of four events during both days of the state team competition. The freshman wound up placing seventh in the all-around with a 37.1.
"My goals were to always have a positive mindset through the meets and I accomplished that," Skari said.
Any goals Nelson had for her final prep season were pretty well met with the year she turned in.
Nelson finished out her prep gymnastics home-meet schedule as the 2022 WDA Tournament all-around, floor exercise and uneven bar champion. A pair of 9.7s on bars and floor helped the lone Blue Jay senior to a 38.275 performance in the West Regional all-around contest.
"My main goals were just to take in every last moment I had left and have fun with it and I think, with the help of my teammates, I accomplished that," Nelson said.
At State, Nelson led the Blue Jays, scoring a 38.000 across the four events. Nelson placed fourth in the all-around. The senior was named the WDA Senior Athlete of the Year and the Senior Athlete of the Year.
During the regular season, Nelson was ranked second in the all-around with a 37.95, 0.33 points behind 2021 State All-Around Champ, Amy Fridley of Dickinson. Across all four events, Nelson was ranked in the top four.
"It was just a great way to close out my gymnastics career and am very grateful to be given the award," Nelson said. "From my standpoint, I think the team exceeded all expectations and overcame all the little things we needed to."
All-state gymnastics teams
Jamestown: Haley Nelson, Sr.; Emma Hillerud, Jr.; Julia Skari; Fr.
Dickinson: Amy Fridley, Jr.; Addison Fitterer, So.; Elizabeth Karsky, 7th
Valley City: Abbey Thornton, Jr.; Karina Olson, Jr
Jamestown: Blair Arbuckle, Jr.
Bismarck High: Alyson Krug, Sr.
Dickinson: Rylee Olson, So.; Brooklyn Wariner, 8th
Grand Forks: Taryn Swanson, So.
Minot High: Haley Conklin, Fr.
Mandan: Jericah Lockner, So.