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Kasel is new head gymnastics coach for HHS

This season, the Hastings gymnastics team will take to the mat with a new coach leading them. Having a new coach will be nothing new for the Raiders. Jeanne (Judge) Kasel takes the reins of the program this season, and she will be the team's third coach in three years.

When the position became available, Kasel jumped at the chance to take over for the team. She spent last season as an assistant for the Raiders.

"I really have a passion for kids, and watching them become their best," she said. "I love the sport. Gymnastics is a sport where boys and girls can excel in so many areas. It's just not just a physical sport."

Kasel grew up in Hastings and competed in club gymnastics while she went to school. She graduated in 1982 and eventually came to work in the mid-1980s at Jan's School of Dance, instructing youngsters in dance, baton and gymnastics.

Later, as her daughters Maria and Courtney took up gymnastics, Kasel was a coach at Perpetual Motion, a Twin Cities-based gymnastics club.

By the early 2000s, though, Kasel had come back to Hastings and got to work coaching and running the girls teen program at the Hastings Gymnastics Center.

"I worked very, very hard to develop a strong teen program here," she said. "It's a feeder program for the high school. I'm excited to see it come full circle for the high school now.

"A lot of these girls, I've coached them when they were really little. I'm excited. I'm just so excited."

In the past, about a dozen athletes would come out for the team. This year, Kasel is excited to have more than 20 out.

In the past, fielding a varsity team was no easy accomplishment. Nevermind fielding a junior varsity lineup. This year, that won't be a problem. Kasel is now worried about whether or not there are enough uniforms for the girls.

"That's not a bad problem to have," Kasel said with a laugh.

Many of the girls compete in gymnastics year-round.

"We have a lot of talent across the board," Kasel said. "The girls worked hard in the offseason. I know they've been working hard on their new schools."

The season began for the Raiders on Monday with the opening day of practice.

Captains had been holding practice for two weeks leading up to the start of the season.

Kasel will be assisted by Kelly Brasher. The team's spotter will be Jason Brunet.

Kasel said the Raiders will have five home meets this season, and they'll also be playing host to the girls junior varsity conference meet, set for Saturday, Feb. 12 at the gymnastics center.