VHS gymnastics team will count on young talent By Parker Knox
Sportswriter Having lost five seniors to graduation, the Vermillion High gymnastics team has a youthful look to it as the new season begins, and that's no understatement. Coach Mark Upward's roster includes four sophomores, one freshman, nine eighth graders and six seventh graders, but gymnastics is a sport where success and experience often come early in one's career, so there is a sense of excitement and anticipation as the Tanagers prepare to begin their season Tuesday, Dec. 2, against a tough opening-night opponent, Sioux Falls Lincoln, at the VHS auxiliary gym. It will be a double dose of winter sports excitement for Vermillion fans since the wrestling team will also be home that night in the adjoining gym and fans will be able to catch both sports on the same night in the same building. "That does hurt us," said four-year gymnastics veteran Amber Walker, a sophomore, referring to the graduation losses, "but I think we can bring our game and compete to the best of our abilities and do well."�? Walker and another sophomore, Elly Melby, have been varsity gymnasts since seventh grade, and both have placed in the top 15 in the state tournament all-around standings. "I have seen some of the younger girls, and they are learning a lot and really stepping up," Walker said.�? "I think if we work hard and keep our heads in the game, we will do really well as a team." Melby said the season will be termed successful if the girls "have well-done routines that can get us some high scores and if we just try to do our best." Eighth-grader Rory Tucker is another returnee who has already had state-level experience. "The rest of the gymnasts are also working extremely hard to learn more skills to improve their performances," said Upward. Melby said her individual goal is to raise her scores into the high 8's this winter.�? Floor exercise and parallel bars are her favorite events.�? "I love floor because it's fun getting routines put together and picking out the music to go with it," she said, "but I really like bars, too, because it's a very challenging event for me, and I like learning new and harder moves to make my routine even better." Walker's individual goals are to incorporate at least one new skill into each of her events and get over her fear of flipping backward on the balance beam.�? "I can flip backwards on the floor," she admitted, "but when it comes to a four-inch beam, I get a little freaked out!" This winter's schedule is an attractive one for home fans.�? One of the highlights will be the Winter Wonderland tournament at VHS on Dec. 30.�? Vermillion will also host the regional meet on Feb. 13 prior to the state meet in Rapid City the following week.