On its surface, gymnastics is the most sweet-tempered of sports. It stands distinguished on the sports landscape, filled with competitors combining grace and style with athleticism. Competitors cheer for each other, hug frequently and often pass time dancing and laughing together while awaiting final results of a meet.
There is no trash talk, no cheap shots and little apparent rivalry.
As Roseville assistant coach Julie Castellano puts it, “There’s no defense in gymnastics. We want to go out and have our best meet and we encourage our opponents to do well, too.”
But competitiveness runs deep and desire is obvious. There will be no better example than Friday at the gymnastics state meet at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.
The two most successful Class 2A teams of the past decade, Roseville and Northfield, are expected to match backflip for backflip with each other. They will duel for a championship in what is anticipated to be one of the most closely contested team competitions in nearly a decade.
Northfield was ranked No. 1 in the final 2A rankings with an average score of 150.8. Roseville is No. 2, averaging 149.642.
“Roseville and Northfield will be battling hard for the team championship,” said Colleen Stark-Haws, a St. Cloud Tech co-coach whose team is ranked No. 3, nearly three points back. “It is going to be a great meet.”
Since 2006, Roseville has established itself as one of the nation’s premier high school gymnastics programs. The two-time defending champion Raiders have won six of the past eight Class 2A titles. They own the best single-meet score in national prep history, a 154.65 in 2008.
The only other team to win a 2A title since 2006? Northfield, which won back-to-back championships in 2010 and 2011.
Last year, Roseville edged Northfield by .375 points.
This year, it’s expected to be even closer between two teams that also happen to share the nickname Raiders.
Northfield brings a stellar top four led by Bailey DuPay, a junior who used her 2013 all-around championship as a springboard to an undefeated season in the all-around. Teammates Christy Anderson, Abigail Stets and Alexis Kiefer, all of whom have posted 37.65 or better all-around scores, give the Raiders a slight edge in high-end talent.
“I feel we have a better team than in the championship years,” coach Paul Bernhard said. “However, we don’t necessarily have the depth.”
Depth is Roseville’s strong point. The program has developed a continuous pipeline of talent that not only scores high, but thrives on winning big meets. Rarely will a Roseville gymnast wobble on the balance beam or under-rotate on a tumbling pass. Peak performance is large part of their success.
“We say that pressure is a privilege,” Castellano said. “We look at it as an opportunity. It doesn’t have to be negative.”
Castellano said that, regardless of the outcome, gymnastics fans have a right to be excited about this matchup.
“When you go into a meet and it’s up for grabs,” she said, “I think it’s more exciting for everyone to watch, and that’s what most of these girls want. They love to perform.”