GYMNASTICS: Bemidji to break glass ceiling again with latest state trip

Lumberjack gymnasts, from left, Lauren Berg, Lauren Lundquist and Tatum Offerdahl will further a historic run for the BHS program as individuals in the Class AA state meet on Saturday at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School gymnastics team will look to put a stamp on its historic season on Saturday.

Three Lumberjacks -- Lauren Berg, Lauren Lundquist and Tatum Offerdahl -- are on Minnesota’s brightest stage as individuals competing in the Class AA state meet.

“Every event we go into, every meet we go into, we always want to put our best foot forward,” BHS head coach Briana Fleischhacker said. “The state meet is really a great opportunity to show the entire state that, even though we may be way up north, that we’re still a force to be reckoned with and that we have good gymnastics up here. Our girls work hard and deserve to be noticed.”

For the first time ever, Bemidji has three gymnasts taking part in the state meet. Offerdahl, a sophomore making her third appearance, will be the program’s first to compete in two events (vault and uneven bars). Lundquist, a junior, is also back for thirds with her second appearance on beam, and Berg, a sophomore, will debut at the state level on vault.

In a program that qualified just three gymnasts for state in its first 24 years, the current trio’s efforts have accounted for 11 event appearances in the past three years to make the late-season road trip the norm.


“I’m really proud of it,” Lundquist said. “I’m really proud of myself and Tatum. I’m also really proud of (Berg). It feels cool because we’ve improved a lot over the years as a team, and with this whole generation of gymnasts.”

They’ve also reworked the record book this season -- and nearly in its entirety. Without a senior on the roster, nine of the program’s 10 records have fallen in the past seven weeks.

“Honestly, our entire varsity roster has been so strong and so consistent,” Fleischhacker said. “It’s great to see these girls rewarded for the hard work they’ve done. It would have been awesome to have more (at state).

“The whole team has been really strong and has put together really great routines this year. I’m excited for our future, even. Next year, coming back with the same team will be nice.”

First, though, the Jacks have one more run to make this year. The Class AA state individual and all-around championships commence at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul.

Stephanie Kroeger, the program’s inaugural state participant in 2001, placed 17th on the beam and still stands as Bemidji’s best-ever finisher. That mark will be tested while Offerdahl aims to improve a personal-best 21st-place effort from 2018 and Lundquist tries to better her 33rd-place showing from 2019.

“I’m not feeling nerves,” Lundquist said. “I feel confident with myself and my abilities. I know I’ve been practicing all season, and I’m just going to rely on my practices getting me to the point I’m at now.”

The stakes are as high as ever, but BHS views it as an opportunity.


“When we go down there, we want to put our best out there,” Fleischhacker said. “But enjoy the day. Really, that’s the biggest goal you can have at this point: go in and do one of your best routines, have fun while you’re down there and appreciate the sport.”

Ready or not, the season is closing quickly on the Lumberjacks. But not without one last crack at history.

“All of us have been working on our stuff for so long now,” Berg said. “We finally get to put it out there one last time this season. … It’s really nice to end the season with something good, and what we’ve been working on: to land it when it counts.”

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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