The Hastings Raiders gymnastics team is thriving this season in just about every area. The Raiders boast the largest team in the Metro East Conference, have their best record in years at 4-1 and are set to finish the season on a high note with a healthy team.
“We’ve had a really good season,” said head coach Jeanne Kasel. “We have a huge team, we have 20 girls that compete and then three managers. The last couple meets we’ve struggled with a few injuries and some illness, but the girls have held their own. Out of the five meets, we’ve only lost one and that was to Mahtomedi, who is No. 1 in our conference.”
Hastings has scored over 120 team points in every meet this year, including a season-high 127.975 in their win against Tartan in the third meet of the year.
The Raiders started the season with a 121.575-86.550 win over the North St. Paul Polars. Linnea Hedin won the all-around for Hastings with a 31.275 while Kyra Bartholomew was second with a 30.075 and Nicole McGraw was third (29.325).
They then fell to the conference-leading Mahtomedi Zephyrs 133.150-125.50. Hedin was third in all-around with a score of 32.525, Ava Mamer was right behind her with a 31.950 and Taylor DeBettignies was fifth (31.40).
The Raiders bounced back with three consecutive wins against Tartan, South St. Paul and Simley. They defeated the Titans 127.975-111.575, the Polars 123.250-105.30 and the Spartans 123.825-120.275.
Ava Mamer took the top all-around spot against Tartan with a 32.70 and the Raiders grabbed the top four spots. Hedin was second with a 32.425, McGraw was third (31.775) and DeBettignies finished fourth with a 31.025.
Against South St. Paul, Hastings once again swept all three of the top all-around spots. Hedin was first with a score of 31.975, McGraw finished second with a 30.875 and Bartholomew placed third (29.975). Hedin then set a season-high all-around score against Simley to finish first in the all-around while Bartholomew took fourth with a 30.025 and Haley Herman scored a 29.575.
Kasel said that her team has been solid in all four of the events.
“We’ve been doing well on beam, which can be a team’s struggle for varsity,” she said. “But this year we’ve been doing really well on beam and our bars have come a long way. We have strong bars swingers this year, so that’s been great. It would be vault, floor, beam and bars if I had to rank them.”
Hastings has achieved all of this despite never having its full varsity lineup. The Raiders have missed at least one varsity gymnast in every single meet so far and the last few meets have had to pull up some gymnasts from JV.
However, Hastings has had a long break since their last meet against Simley on Jan. 12, which gave them the opportunity to get healthy. Their final regular season meet is tonight, Jan. 27, at Two Rivers and Kasel anticipated most if not all of her gymnasts back.
Helping propel the Raiders this season have been some newcomers to the team.
“We have a lot of new girls and some of them, three or four of them have definitely created a competition with the girls who returned, the veterans,” Kasel said. “For us coaches, it’s been fun to see that.”
Two of those newcomers are Hedin, a senior, and DeBettignies, a freshman. Kasel raved about both and how great it has been to have them both out for the high school team.
“She’s (Hedin) has been a standout obviously, we’re all so happy that she decided to finish out her gymnastics career on the high school team,” she said. “She’s been a club girl at Great Northern all these years. She just made a decision at the end of last year that she wanted to do anything and everything she could at the high school. She’s just an amazing kid and I think her presence in the gym has proven a lot to the other girls as well.”
“One of our new girls, Taylor DeBettignies, she’s a freshman and she was a club girl who decided to go high school this summer,” Kasel continued. “We’re excited to have her, she’s a really good hard worker. Again, it’s been fun because these new girls are challenging the veterans which I love.”
Kasel also singled out Ava Mamer who has been a varsity contributor for years.
Before each season, the Raider coaches have the gymnasts make their own personal goals as well as team ones. Kasel said that the girls have achieved most of them with three meets to go.
“I’d say 80% of the goals have been met, team wise so far, and we still have a few meets left,” she said. “I feel that at the end of this season, the girls are going to have a lot to be proud of both individually and as a team. At this point, the girls have so much to be proud of, with their record but I think more so with all the personal goals they’re starting to meet and exceed. We’ve just been climbing this hill and they can see the top, so I think they’re just going to give it their all and I think we’re going to end up on a high point and our scores will probably end up averaging out better than they have been.”
After Hastings meet at Two Rivers, they have their conference meet on Thursday, Feb. 3. The Section 3AA meet is Friday, Feb. 11, at Two Rivers.
“It will be a fast finish here, but I think the girls are ready for it,” Kasel finished. “They’re ready for the challenge, they’ve really been pushing themselves to add new skills and step up their game on their routines and each week they’ve seen that pay off with their scores.”