Rosemount gymnast Josey Schlie appeared focused while running through her skills on the balance beam during a Friday practice. Then she stopped. It was time for a dance break.
The moves drew some giggles from her teammates, but Schlie usually saves her best tricks for a bigger crowd. The sophomore finished second in the state on the floor exercise last year, and her best event seems to be a clear fit for her personality.
“I’m a performer,” Schlie said. “The day before I do stuff, but not to my full ability. When it’s meet day, I just go all out.”
This season Schlie is focused on not only competing for a state title on floor on Feb. 20, but also in all-around. She finished 16th in all-around at state last year, though floor remains her favorite.
“She loves to be the focal point and the center of attention,” Rosemount coach Jason Passeri said. “She loves to work the crowd. Most kids, the bigger the crowd the more nervous they get. The bigger the crowd, the better she performs.”
When asked by Passeri if that were true, Schlie’s father, Bruce, added: “Oh yes.”
Schlie has worked to improve her vault and bars scores this year to finish higher in the all-around. She has posted the best scores for the fourth-ranked Irish on floor and bars this year and the second best on vault and beam.
And she still has put up competitive scores even though she’s been off at times this season.
“She has not really hit this year, so her all-around scores are not as quite as high as last year,” Passeri said. “But she’s been falling a lot … If she does put it together, she could win the all-around.”
It’s a goal Schlie hopes to achieve, and she’s eager to get her shot.
“Yeah, I’m trying,” she said. “I’m pretty confident, I guess. I’m excited. More excited than confident.”
If she needs a confidence boost while competing, she’ll likely get it from her spotters, who might know her routines and skills as well as she does. Schlie started competing with Passeri, who also is the coach of the Rosemount chapter of the Midwest Amateur Gymnastics Association program, when she was 5. He and his three assistants have coached at the school for more than 40 years combined.
“It’s very cool. I like being with them and having them spot me,” Schlie said. “They’re really encouraging and happy for us if we do good, or [they push] us to be better because they know we can be better.”
After 16 years in charge of the Rosemount program, Passeri brought the Irish to the state tournament as a team for the first time in 2014, and this season Rosemount has one of the best team averages in the state.
Besides Schlie, the Irish also feature 2015 all-state performers Meghan Creese (vault), Abby Nelson (floor) and Olivia Ratgen (floor).
“[It’s] kind of fun when you get to have these kids coming through the program. As a seventh-grader, you’ve already coached them for six years,” Passeri said. “They treat you like one of their parents, but they also talk back a little more, too.”
The familiarity among coaches and teammates creates a relaxed atmosphere at practice, where gymnasts can alternate giving each other advice and showing off their dance moves. Just count on Schlie to keep a couple in her back pocket for a larger audience.
“We all have our very spunky, happy sides where we all just dance and have a good time at practice,” she said. “It’s fun. I love this team.”
Ben Gotz is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.