Gymnastics a long-time love for Emma Hillerud, Syndey Fisher
Emma Hillerud and Sydney Fisher have been competing in gymnastics since they were toddlers. The pair are the only seniors on this season's Blue Jay gymnastics team roster.
JAMESTOWN — Emma Hillerud and Sydney Fisher first met each other at a padded playground when they were three years old.
Fifteen years later, the pair still plays at the playground four days a week.
"My first memory related to gymnastics is just growing up in the gym," Hillerud said. "It’s like my second home. I made a lot of my friends through the gym and I am there four days a week.
Hillerud and Fisher are both seniors competing for the Jamestown High School gymnastics team. 2023 marks the first season the Jays' have had more than one senior on the team in more than four years.
"I think it definitely helps to have more seniors on the team," Fisher said. "There are more leaders to help lead the team."
Hillerud said the reason her parents put her in gymnastics in the first place was to work on her muscle development, fine motor skills and drain some energy out of her. Once she began to excel and show a real interest, the Hilleruds agreed that keeping her in the club would prove beneficial.
Fisher's parents were along the same line of thinking.
"I started gymnastics when I was three," Fisher said. "When they put me in gymnastics I was also doing many other sports but my parents kept me in it because I enjoyed gymnastics the most. I have kept competing because of the fun environment and good sportsmanship we have during competitions."
Fisher is the third generation of her family to compete for the Blue Jays. Her grandmother Lora, competed for the Blue Jays back in the Delores Paulson days. Her aunt Rachel also competed as a Blue Jay and her father, Ryan, still serves on the Jamestown Gymnastics Club board.
"Sydney has been my teammate for as long as I can remember," Hillerud said. "She is probably one of the goofiest people I have ever met. She is always making me laugh. My favorite memory of her is probably when she was vaulting at practice and she was doing a handspring full and her arms went crazy and hit Mr. Tews' glasses off his face."
Fisher's vaults have gotten a little better since that fateful practice.
Fishe has mastered a front handspring front tuck on the apparatus which has resulted in some pretty big scores for the senior. Fisher's best score of 8.750 ranks her 25th in the state in vault. Hillerud is ranked 12th having scored a 9.200 on vault at the Jays' season opener at Aberdeen Central on Dec. 1.
Hillerud's most difficult skill also came on the vault in the form of a tsukahara but the most recent skill Hillerud has incorporated into her routines is what's known as a "bail" on uneven bars which is essentially a transition from the high bar to the low bar.
As of Jan. 26, Hillerud holds the 19th-best score in the state on bars, having recorded an 8.300 at the season opener.
"It takes a lot of hard work and patience to get new skills," Fisher said.
So what's motivating the pair?
For Hillerud, it's the team and she's found that if she's going to get better for the Jays, it takes more than showing up to practices from November through February.
During the season Hillerud said the team works out at Flex and Flo twice a week and then practices five days per week for two and a half hours. During the offseason Hillerud trains four days a week for two and a half hours and then kicks it up a notch when summer hits, training three hours a day four days per week.
"Off-season training typically is year-round and our practices after the season are pretty easygoing because we mainly just work on upgrading our skills rather than when we’re in season trying to perfect our routines," Fisher said. "In-season training is a lot of repetition of routines and skills so when it comes to competitions we are prepared."
On Jan. 19, Hillerud scored a huge 9.025 on beam which has put her at the No. 19 spot in the event overall. Hillerud's 9.100 on floor is the Jays' second-best score in the event. Fisher is within the top-30 on floor, having notched an 8.850 on Dec. 1.
Hillerud is ranked 12th in the state in the all-around. Her best all-around score of 34.95 came at the Aberdeen Central Meet
The Blue Jays lost former all-stater, Haley Nelson, to graduation and had a few other experienced gymnasts decide to leave the sport Jamestown's average team score is still sitting at 134.880. As a team, the Jays are currently the third-highest scoring team in the state behind Dickinson (147.550) and Bismarck Century (139.096) a fact that speaks volumes about the leadership of the coaching staff and this year's seniors.
"We have had some turnover this year and I am so proud of the younger girls on the team who have stepped up to fill the void that was created," Hillerud said. "(My team) is like family and they help me strive to be better for the team."