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Emma Hillerud, Julia Skari two of the best in ND gymnastics

Emma Hillerud and Julia Skari were named to the 2023 All-State Gymnastics Team last week.

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Jamestown's Julia Skari begins her beam routine Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, at the North Dakota Gymnastics State Championship at Jerry Meyer Arena.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

JAMESTOWN — About three weeks after she officially wrapped up her high school gymnastics career, Jamestown High School senior Emma Hillerud got a sweet surprise when scrolling through her social media feed.

"Last Wednesday, I found out I was named all-state from an article on Facebook," Hillerud said.

Hillerud and her teammate, Julia Skari were named to the 2023 All-State Gymnastics Team last week. The pair of gymnasts were the fourth and fifth athletes to earn all-state honors in a winter sport for the Blue Jays. Brooks Roaldson and Bernadette Belzer earned all-state hockey nominations while Teddy Solensky picked up an all-state award for the JHS swimming and diving team.

"I am so proud of Emma and Julia for being named to both the all-conference and all-state teams," JHS head coach Bre Carlson said. "They are very dedicated to their sport and came in every day to put in the hard work. Being voted onto both teams was very well deserved."

After a highly competitive regular season, Hillerud and Skari helped to lead the Blue Jays to a third-place finish at the 2023 West Region Meet. The team scored 140.900 at West Region. One week later at the Class A State Team Championships, the Blue Jays kept the ball rolling and wound up placing third with a score of 144.667.

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Individually, Hillerud and Skari were two of the Jays' top threats all season long — hence the all-state nominations.

The pair were two of 12 Blue Jay gymnasts who competed on the final day of the 2023 State Gymnastics Meet. Hillerud placed in the top 15 in three of the four events and wound up placing eighth in the all-around competition with a score of 36.233.

Hillerud was also named the 2023 West Region and State Senior Athlete of the Year. She is the third member of the Blue Jay program to sweep the Senior Athlete of the Year awards in three years.

"My gymnastics career was wild but so much fun," Hillerud said. "I went through so much over the past six years and gymnastics has just been a super steady thing in my life. I loved every minute of it and I won’t be the same without this sport."

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Jamestown's Emma Hillerud soars over the vault on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, during the State Gymnastics Championship at Jerry Meyer Arena.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Being counted as among the best in their sport was nothing new for Hillerud and Skari. Both earned all-state honors last season.

"I credit that to good coaching and teammates who always supported me," Hillerud said of earning multiple all-state awards.

From the way Skari talks, Hillerud was a pretty supportive teammate in her own right.

"My teammate Emma has always been my biggest role model since I was little," Skari said. "She deserved that all-state award. She has a great attitude and knows how to be a great team leader. Emma is a great teammate with a great attitude all the time, it doesn’t matter if she falls or doesn’t make a skill, she will always have a positive mind and is always fun to be around.

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"It’s super hard knowing Emma and I are done competing because she has been competing with me since I was super little," she said. "It’s gonna be hard next year without her and it’s gonna be super different. I’m really gonna miss her."

While Hillerud will be graduating come May and heading off to pursue a career in nursing at North Dakota State University, Skari will be back in the gym preparing for next season.

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Jamestowns Julia Skari jumps from one bar to another on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, during the State Gymnastics State Championship.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

"Julia is one of the kindest people you will meet," Hillerud said. "She is so funny and kind. She is always making me laugh and helping me through all sorts of things. At any (gymnastics) meet, she is talking to other teams and makes friends. I am going to miss her so much next year."

Skari, a sophomore, just finished her fourth year competing at the varsity level. Skari was selected to the second-team all-state team in her seventh- and eighth-grade years and first-team honors in her freshman and sophomore seasons.

At the state individual championships, Skari was the Blue Jays' top finisher in the all-around, placing fifth with a score of 36.683.

"Gymnastics has definitely always been the sport I’m excited to go to, the team makes it so much better to go and practice every day, even if I have been having a bad day these girls could make me smile," Skari said. "I have many goals for next season — upgrading and fixing the stuff I need is definitely a goal for the summer and I think that goes for a lot of people on the team."

While Skari will be without her lifelong role model, next season, the sophomore can bet Hillerud will be cheering her on.

"She works hard every day and continues to improve," Hillerud said. "I know she will do great things with the rest of her career."

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2023 Gymnastics All-State Team

First team
Julia Skari, Jamestown
Rylee Olson, Dickinson
Karina Olson, Valley City
Elizabeth Karsky, Dickinson
Brooklyn Wariner, Dickinson
Haley Conklin, Minot
Alyson Krug, Bismarck
Reygan Strommen, Dickinson

Second team
Emma Hillerud, Jamestown
Taryn Swanson, Grand Forks
Aspen Roadarmel, Dickinson
Teah Schulte, Century
Keira Davis, Minot
Jericah Lockner, Mandan
Jenna Jackson, Century
Alexa Evanger, Legacy

NDHSCA POWERade Outstanding Senior Athlete - Emma Hillerud, Jamestown

NDHSCA SUBWAY Coach of the Year - Rachel Johnson Krug, Bismarck

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Jamestown's Julia Skari begins her beam routine on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, at the North Dakota Gymnastics State Championship at Jerry Meyer Arena.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

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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