BEMIDJI -- Lauren Lundquist and Tatum Offerdahl are no strangers to state.
The Bemidji High School duo will be returning to the Class AA state gymnastics meet as individuals on Saturday, Feb. 23, after both made their debuts a season ago.
“(My experience) is definitely going to make me feel more comfortable down there,” Lundquist said. “Last year, I was pretty nervous. But knowing the girls I’m going down with, and knowing what to expect, I think it’ll be easier on my nerves.”
The two qualified for this year’s edition of state at the Section 8AA Meet on Feb. 16 in Brainerd. Offerdahl’s 9.15 on the bars was good for second overall, and Lundquist scored a 9.2 on beam for fourth. The top three all-arounders, plus the three next best finishers in each event, qualify for state.
“We knew coming into the season that they both had a great shot at qualifying again,” BHS head coach Briana Fleischhacker said. “They put a little pressure on themselves because once you make it once, you feel like you’ve got to try to make it every single year. We all thought it was a very high possibility that we’d be coming back with at least these two.”
Lundquist, a sophomore, qualified for state with her floor routine last year. Offerdahl, a freshman, is making her second straight appearance on bars.
“To know that I still have the skills and I still have the cleanness of a routine is good for me to know,” Offerdahl said. “(My goal) is obviously doing my best, but more so doing my best routine of the season.”
Fleischhacker had a similar goal for the two.
“My goal for them would be for them to go out and do their best routines -- to go out and put up a good performance,” she said. “The scores and the places, what will happen will happen. It’s more just that we go out there and do our best.”
A total of 48 gymnasts will compete in each event, making for a large field to stack up against. But, again, that’s where state experience can come in handy.
“Handle the pressure. Don’t let the pressure or adrenaline get too far,” Offerdahl said of her focus. “I’m more experienced, so I know what’s going on. I know, going into it, what to expect.”
As the two are starting to make a habit of reaching the state level, Fleischhacker said she hopes that success trickles down throughout the program.
“It definitely sets the bar high and sets the expectation. Every year, the girls come in knowing that it’s a possibility,” she said. “When I first started coaching the program, a lot of the team didn’t realize how capable they were of a lot of things. To see their own teammates qualify and know that it is a possibility… it sets that expectation. People work even harder when they know that there’s some sort of reward they could get for their efforts.”
The Class AA individual state meet will start at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at the University of Minnesota’s Maturi Pavillion in Minneapolis. The two will ensure they’re ready for it.
“I’ve been doing a lot of mental work, just to make sure I’m prepared,” Lundquist said. “(Doing well) would make me really happy. It’s worth my work this season, but it’ll be really rewarding to do well.”