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GYMNASTICS: Jacks relish chance to host section meet

Bemidji High School gymnastics captains Alexis Solo, left, and Stephanie Lauderbaugh bump fists to encourage each other Thursday during practice at the Gym Bin. The team is hosting the Section 8AA meet Friday at Bemidji High School. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- For the first time in more than a decade, the Section 8AA gymnastics meet is coming to Bemidji High School.

The Lumberjacks gymnastics team will be taking its act from its usual home at the Gym Bin to the BHS Gymnasium for tonight’s section championships at 6 p.m. The last time Bemidji hosted the meet was 2005, head coach Briana Rueter said.

“We’re very excited to be hosting finally,” Rueter said. “Ever since I started coaching, this is my third season, (the girls) always ask, ‘When do we get to have sections?’ So it’ll be fun to have it here.”

Mats, vaults and other equipment were hauled away from the Gym Bin on Thursday night to be set up inside the BHS Gymnasium. Many people have been called on to help with the preparations for the event.

“We’re very, very lucky to have groups of parents and people who have been around for a long time who know what to do and have an idea of putting together meets,” Rueter said.

The Bemidji Gymnastics Club organizes an annual showcase show at the high school but tonight will be the first time the high school team has competed at BHS in about 12 years.

Bemidji High School senior Courtney Mayer practices on the beam Thursday during gymnastics practice at the Gym Bin.

“It’s such an awesome feeling to actually have sections here this year knowing that we’re not going to have travel like three hours away,” senior captain Alexis Solo said. “We have it at home (so) all of our family and friends get to come watch.”

“It’s a big deal I think because it’s such a big meet because it’s kind of what you work for the whole season,” senior captain Stephanie Lauderbaugh added. “Like all the meets matter but it all comes down to sections, so to host something like that is awesome.”

The new venue will be able to accommodate many more fans than the team is used to for regular season meets.

“The additional fans, it’s gonna put a lot of pressure on us but I think that pressure is gonna be really good,” senior Courtney Mayer said. “It’s gonna make us throw those big skills that we’ve been working on all season and actually stick them. Hopefully we hit as a team finally. We’ve been really close so hopefully this is the meet.”

The Jacks will need everyone to click at once to put on a strong performance at the meet, Rueter said.

“We need to do the things we do everyday at practice and put it all together and get everybody on the same page,” she said.

Rueter hopes the meet can give more fans a chance to catch a glimpse of the gymnastics team on a big stage.

“We’d love to have a big crowd there so the girls can show off their skills,” she said. “We’re off away from the high school so people kind of don’t really get to see our competitions very often because they’re never at the high school. I think the girls are saying that there’s even kids at the high school who are like, ‘What? We have a gymnastics team?’ who don’t even know. It’ll be really fun to have people come out and see what cool things they do.”

Austin Monteith

Austin Monteith is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is an Illinois native and a Butler University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @amonteith92.

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