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Young Magic gymnasts gain valuable varsity experience

VAULTING INTO ACTION ­— Members of the Martin County Area Magic gymnastics lineup opening the season by traveling to Jackson County Central on Nov. 30 include, front row (left to right): Manager Hayley Clarke, Avery Steuber, Hannah Cole, Adri Leiding, Lillie Schultz and manager Madie Ludewig. Back row: Assistant coach Jenna Steele, Kaydynce Weber, Jadyn Montgomery, Nola Thedens, Abi Chavez, Ava Thate, Ellie Perkins, Nat Johnson, Amelia Anderson and head coach Annie Post. Not pictured: Mollie Leiding, Adriana Knafla and Cierra Farnum. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — Martin County Area’s youthful gymnastics lineup gained a year’s worth of varsity experience due to major injuries to a pair of senior standouts last season. Ironically, two-thirds of the Magic’s current 15-gymnast roster still are eighth- and ninth-graders.

“There are a lot of familiar faces returning to the gym this season,” said Annie Post, who enters her third season at the Magic program’s helm. “Basically, we’re the same team that we were last year, only we’ve learned what it’s like to compete at the varsity level at a young age and what the judges are looking for skill-wise.

“We have a pair of great leaders in co-captains Abi Chavez and Ava Thate in the gym, and they’ll look to motivate our younger ones to better themselves along the way.”

Chavez, Martin County Area’s lone senior competitor, literally made strides last winter and evolved into one of the purple-and-white’s top floor exercise and uneven parallel bars workers.

Thate, one of only two juniors working the equipment, also demonstrated steady improvement throughout 2022-23 and generated the Magic’s No. 2 total of 30.1 points in the all-around competition during last season’s Section 2A Meet.

Chavez, Thate, Mollie Leiding, Lillie Schultz and Jadyn Montgomery produced the top counting marks on each piece of equipment to guide Martin County Area to a sixth-place team showing of 123.675 during the sectional meet.

Leiding, who’s a freshman, topped the Magic with an all-around score of 30.85 and a balance beam mark of 7.8 at last winter’s sectional meet, while Schultz — who’s only an eighth-grader — paced the team’s postseason performance on the floor (8.775) and matched Leiding on the vault with 8.3-scored efforts.

Montgomery, who’s a freshman, contributed a 7.5 on the uneven bars during MCA’s effort at the sectional meet last year.

Junior Adriana Knafla and the sophomore tandem of Nola Thedens and Kaydynce Weber also return to the roster after contributing specialist skills for the Magic in 2022-23.

Post also will look for all-around point production from freshman newcomer Hannah Cole, who previously competed for the Mankato Area Gymnastics School for numerous seasons.

Amelia Anderson rounds out the Magic’s four freshmen on the team, with Nat Johnson, Adri Leiding, Ellie Perkins, Avery Steuber and Cierra Farnum completing the up-and-coming eighth-grade gymnasts.

“We’ve been using the SMART motivational process this season,” Post said in reference to the acronym that’s based on goals that fall into the categories of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based. “It’s based on a visual learning tool — if you read it, it helps increase your mental toughness en route to achieving those goals.

“From an individual perspective, I’ve attended coaching clinics and read material on social media sites to improve my coaching skills.

“Some of those motivational tools work out and some don’t. We just have to adapt them to our skills, equipment, space and time.”

Jenna Steele and Justin Thedens return to the Magic coaching staff, while former high school gymnastics standout Kristeena Thisius will lend her insight and knowledge to the motivational process this season.

“One of our team goals is to eventually score a 130, along with finishing the season with a winning (dual-meet) record.

Martin County Area vaults into the new season on Thursday, Nov. 30, when it travels to Jackson County Central.

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